The two teams with the most regular-season points in the NHL are meeting in the second round of the playoffs.
The Golden Knights will play the Colorado Avalanche after winning their first-round series against the Minnesota Wild on Friday at T-Mobile Arena in seven games. The winner of the best-of-seven series will advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals and have home-ice advantage the rest of the postseason.
Game 1 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Pacific time Sunday at Ball Arena in Denver. The rest of the schedule hasn’t been announced.
The Avalanche and Knights each finished the regular season with 82 points, but Colorado won the Presidents’ Trophy for the NHL’s best record because of the regulation wins tiebreaker. This will be the first time they have met in the postseason.
Their matchups were incredibly close this season. The Knights finished 4-4 with a plus-one goal differential. Five of the games were decided by one goal and one went into overtime.
The Knights were the only West Division opponent Colorado failed to outscore. The Avalanche’s goals per game (2.13) in their regular-season meetings were their fewest against any opponent, but their goals allowed per game (2.25) were their second fewest.
Colorado rolled against basically everyone else. The Avalanche scored the most goals per game (3.52) and allowed the third fewest (2.36) in the NHL. They were 35-10-3 versus their other six West Division foes and swept the St. Louis Blues in the first round.
Colorado outscored the Blues 20-7, outshot them 145-110 and outchanced them 118-73, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
The Avalanche have been so dominant because few teams can match their speed and skill throughout the lineup. Center Nathan MacKinnon turned in another incredible season with 65 points in 48 games. Right wing Mikko Rantanen scored 30 goals despite the shortened schedule, and captain Gabriel Landeskog added 20.
Colorado had six other forwards score at least 10 goals: Andre Burakovsky (19), Joonas Donskoi (17), Brandon Saad (15), Nazem Kadri (11), Valeri Nichushkin (10) and J.T. Compher (10). Kadri was suspended for eight games halfway through the Blues series for a check to the head, but he has appealed. The Avalanche also have former Knights center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare assisting on the NHL’s eighth-best penalty kill.
Colorado’s back end is nearly as strong. Cale Makar was the only NHL defenseman to score at a point-per-game pace with 44 in 44 games. He will be strongly considered for the Norris Trophy. His partner, Devon Toews, also had an excellent season with 31 points after being traded from the New York Islanders in the offseason.
Samuel Girard (32 points), Ryan Graves (15 points) and Conor Timmins (seven points) help round out a young and exciting blue line with excellent puck-moving skills. The defensemen have done an impressive job feeding the Avalanche’s transition attack. The group doesn’t have a lot of size, so it will be up to the Knights to pressure with a heavy forecheck.
Starting in goal for Colorado will be Philipp Grubauer. The 29-year-old is in his third season with the Avalanche after serving as Braden Holtby’s backup for the Washington Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup victory over the Knights.
This season has been one of Grubauer’s best, as he posted a .922 save percentage, a 1.95 goals-against average and a career-high seven shutouts. He’s covered up for his teammates on some of their rare off nights, like when he made 36 saves May 10 in a 2-1 win over the Knights that kept Colorado’s Presidents’ Trophy hopes alive.
The amount of star power present on both sides should make it the marquee series of the second round. The winner probably will be the Stanley Cup favorite.
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