Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

Our second round previews of the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue in the West Division with the Colorado Avalanche matching up against the Vegas Golden Knights. The series begins on Sunday at 8:00 PM ET on NBC. Feel free to check out the East Division preview, and Central Division preview for Round 2 of the postseason if you haven’t already done so.


No one would bat an eye if either of these teams ended up winning the Stanley Cup Final. They’re both built to win it all.

This match features some of the league’s top forwards, goaltenders, and defensemen. In the regular season Colorado led the league offensively with 3.52 goals per game while Vegas ranked third with 3.39 goals per game. When it came to goals allowed, their roles were reversed. The Golden Knights were the league’s top team defensively, allowing just 2.18 goals per game and the Avalanche ranked third with 2.36 goals per game. So if you wanted to call these two teams the best in the league, you could at least make a strong argument.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out NBC Sports EDGE’s Player News, and follow @NBCSEdgeHK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

They were evenly matched in the regular season too with each team claiming four of the eight contests. Of that series, five of those games were decided by just one goal. If any of that is an indicator, we’re in for a good, long series.

Vegas is coming off such a series, though that’s a bit surprising. With all due respect to the Minnesota Wild, they weren’t expect to push Vegas to seven games. Vegas ultimately claimed Game 7 rather cleanly with a 6-2 victory, but that series could still be seen as something of a concern for the Golden Knights.

Wild goaltender Cam Talbot was a big part of Minnesota’s push, stealing Game 1 by posting a 42-save shutout and earning a second perfect contest in Game 6. He also turned aside 38 of 40 shots in the Wild’s Game 5 victory. He wasn’t always enough to hold the Golden Knights back, but when he was at his best, Minnesota won. Given the strength of the Avalanche’s defense, led by their young core of Devon Toews, Cale Makar, and Samuel Girard, and Vezina Trophy contender Philipp Grubauer, the Golden Knights are likely to have an even tougher time scoring in this series.

Vegas has plenty of offensive threats including Mark Stone, Alex Tuch, William Karlsson, and Jonathan Marchessault. On top of that, there’s Max Pacioretty, missed the first six games of the series due to an injury, but he returned on Friday and chipped in the game-winning goal. Pacioretty was a huge part of their offense in the regular season, so his return should go a long way towards stabilizing things. Or at least, Vegas better hope so because they need to be a more consistent group if they’re going to get past Colorado.

Speaking of the Avalanche, Colorado is coming off a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues. Sometimes series are closer than they appear, but that wasn’t really the case here. Colorado outscored St. Louis 20-7 in the first round. It really was a one-sided affair.

As noted above, all-in-all, Vegas’ offense was close to the Avalanche’s in the regular season, but if you want to talk about which team can ice the better top line, there’s no contest. Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog are an amazing trio, arguably the best top-three of any team in the NHL. They certainly played like it in the first round with MacKinnon scoring six goals and nine points, Landeskog contributing two goals and eight points, and Rantanen scoring a goal and seven points in just four games. If the Golden Knights can’t contain those three then this could quickly turn into a painful series for them.

Few teams can deal with that trio, but Vegas is capable of being one of them. Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo provide the Golden Knights with a superb one-two defensive combo and behind them is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He was one of the league’s top goaltenders in the regular season with a 26-10-0 record, 1.98 GAA, and .928 save percentage in 36 games and he was just as good in the first round, posting a 1.71 GAA and .931 save percentage in the seven-game series.

With him and Grubauer manning the nets, it wouldn’t be shocking if these two high-powered teams end up in a low scoring series. The Fleury vs. Grubauer storyline is certainly one of the best of the series. Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, but he still has something left to prove. At the age of 36 and with Robin Lehner on the team, it’s entirely feasible that this will be the last playoff run he has as a starter. Meanwhile, Grubauer is in his prime and while he did win the Cup with Washington in 2018, he was the backup goaltender at the time. Since then, Grubauer has forced his way into the conversation for who is the best goaltender in the league and a championship would be the perfect finale to the best season of his career to date.

Either one of them are worth cheering for even if you don’t have a particular stake in either team. For that matter, both squads are fun to root for as a whole. This has the makings of a classic series.

Players To Watch

Andre Burakovsky – As mentioned above, the Avalanche have an amazing trio of star forwards in Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog, but their fourth best forward was great in his own right. Burakovsky scored 19 goals and 44 points in 53 contests. Back when he was with Washington, Burakovsky was a depth forward and only really established himself as a top-six forward when he joined the Avalanche ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. He wasn’t much of a factor in the Avalanche’s sweep of the Blues though, registering just an assist in four games. It didn’t matter in this series, but against Vegas the Avalanche will need all hands-on deck.

Nathan MacKinnon – NHL teams can’t win on star power alone – just ask the Edmonton Oilers – but when the stakes are at their highest, you do need your superstars to rise to the occasion. Traditionally, MacKinnon has done just that. In addition to getting six goals and nine points in the Avalanche’s sweep of St. Louis, he also had nine goals and 25 points in 15 playoff contests for the Avalanche last year. He’s fast establishing himself as one of this generation’s top playoff performers.

Max Pacioretty – Playing without Pacioretty for the first six games of their first round series was a significant detriment for the Golden Knights. Fortunately, it’s a problem they aren’t projected to repeat this round. Now that he’s back in the lineup, he’ll be expected to make a big impact for Vegas. It is worth noting though that he was underwhelming in Vegas’ 2020 playoff run with five goals and eight points in 16 games, so we’ll see if this time is any different.

Marc-Andre Fleury – What more is there to say about Fleury? He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion who ranks sixth on the all-time list in playoff wins and at the age of 36 is playing some of the best hockey of his career. And yet, in spite of everything he’s accomplished, his history is one littered with hardships. He got lit up in the 2012 and 2013 playoff runs. He was on the bench when the Penguins won the Cup in 2016 and 2017. He got oh so close to winning as the starter in 2018 but fell just short. He ended up losing the starting gig to Lehner during the 2020 playoffs. Intrigue has been a traveling companion of Fleury’s throughout his career, especially in the postseason, but perhaps this year he will raise the Stanley Cup as his team’s starter for the first time since 2009. To do that though, he needs to stand tall against the offensive might of the Avalanche.

Additional Series Notes

This is the sixth time that Peter DeBoer has guided a team to at least the second round as a head coach. He reached the Stanley Cup Final with New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016, though his team lost both time. He now has 62 playoff wins, which is good for 19th place on the all-time coaching list. The only head coach ahead of him on that list with a team still in the playoffs is the Islanders’ Barry Trotz, who has 76 wins.

For his part, Jared Bednar’s playoff record improved to 22-15 after sweeping the St. Louis Blues. All five of Bednar’s seasons as a bench boss have been with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Colorado Avalanche were an incredible 6-for-12 on the power play in the first round, though they had a far less impressive 77.8% penalty kill. By contrast, Vegas struggled on the power play against Minnesota, posting a 13.3% success rate and there penalty kill was adequate at 81.8%.

The power play was a weakness of Vegas in the regular season too. Despite having one of the best offenses in the league, they ranked 22nd on the power play at 17.8%, but they did lead the league by killing 86.8% of their penalties. Colorado had a 22.7% success rate on the power play in the regular season, which was good for eighth place. They also had the eighth best penalty kill at 83.1%.

Vegas is relatively healthy going into this series, but they do have Brayden McNabb on the COVID protocol list. Tomas Nosek has also been out since sustaining an injury in Game 2 of the first round series, but he might end up returning for the start of the second round.

Colorado is without goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body), Erik Johnson (upper body), Matt Calvert (undisclosed), and Logan O’Connor (lower body). In all of those cases, the players have been sidelined for a while and it’s possible that none of them will play in the second round. Jayson Megna is also an X-Factor given that he’s on the COVID protocol list at the time of writing.

Then there’s Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri. He’s served only two games of an eight-game suspension, so in theory the earliest he would even be an option in Game 7. However, he’s appealed the suspension, so it’s at least possible that he’ll be available sooner.