Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview Round 2: COL – SJ
Colorado is another wild card team playing in the second round of the NHL playoffs. The Avalanche, beaten badly in Game 1, defeated Calgary four straight times in a first round upset. The Avalanche clearly were the best team in the series, even though many rated them as the weakest team making the playoffs.
San Jose, on the other hand, narrowly escaped Vegas only after a controversial penalty call midway through the third period. Down by three goals, with roughly a 2% chance to win, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski was cross checked after a face off. Pavelski, tripped over another player hitting the ice head first. The referees hit Vegas with a 5-minute major penalty and San Jose scored 4 goals in 5 minutes. Vegas tied the game to force overtime, but San Jose prevailed punching their ticket to round 2.
Colorado dominated Calgary with outstanding play in the net by Philip Grubauer. Calgary dominated in game 1, but Grubauer allowed no more than 2 goals in the following 4 games of the series. Grubauer blocked 93.9% of the Flames shots on goal and gives the Avs a major advantage over San Jose.
A major reason Colorado may advance is the play of Nathan MacKinnon. The Avs center was the best player on ice in round 1 and should remain the best player in the current series. Mikko Rantanen averaged a goal a game and enters the second round as the Avs hottest scorer. This one-two punch is the best combination in the series. Colorado’s defense set up a wall around goal and prevented Calgary from getting easy shots. The Avalanche are hitting on all cylinders coming into this series and benefit from a week’s worth of rest.
The Sharks are the deeper team in the playoff, but Joe Pavelski is doubtful for the opening match tonight. Losing their captain for just one game is a major blow for a Sharks team that endured a physical matchup against their main rival, Vegas. A major bonus for San Jose in the first round was the play of Eric Karlsson. The defenseman contributed 9 assists in the first round and seems fully healthy after an injury plagued season. Thomas Hertl knocked home six goals and must continue to elevate his game with Pavelski out.
San Jose made it past Vegas, despite Martin Jones being the primary goaltender. Jones allowed 10% of the Vegas shots on goal to get by him in round 1. He rose to the occasion when needed, but 3.20 goals allowed average is nothing to brag about. His backup, Aaron Dell, played even worse when called upon for 4 periods. Dell sports an 86.1% save percentage and is a liability if Jones continues poor play.
The Avalanche have the more talent at the top of the lineups. MacKinnon and Rantanen are more than enough to overcome the Sharks defense. The Sharks are the deeper team across their four lines providing them with the ability for more in game rest in the series. Grubauer ended the season on fire in the net, while Jones is among the worst goalies left in the playoffs.
My numbers give San Jose a slight edge over the Avs- Sharks overcome poor play in the net and score just enough to win the series in 6.
San Jose -140