Wild West: Three-One Leads in the Bubble
Playoff Western Leaders
Goals – 9 – Bo Horvat – Vancouver
Assists – 13 – Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado
Points – 21 – Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado
PPP – 10 – Elias Pettersson – Vancouver
Shots on Goal – 54 – Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado
PIM – 44 – Antoine Roussel – Vancouver
Best plus/minus – plus 12 – Alec Martinez – Vegas,
Hits – 61 – Ryan Reaves – Vegas
Blocked shots – 55 – Alex Edler – Vancouver
Best FO% (min 100 draws) – 62.7% – Ryan O'Reilly – St. Louis
Worst FO% (min 100 draws) – 41.4% – William Karlsson – Vegas
Takeaways –14 – Tyler Motte – Vancouver
Drawn Penalties – 10 – Elias Pettersson – Vancouver
Draisaitl Hat Tricks – 1 – Connor McDavid – Edmonton, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton, Corey Perry – Dallas, J.T. Miller – Vancouver, Mikko Rantanen, Colorado, Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado, Cale Makar – Colorado
Goalie wins – 8 – Jacob Markstrom – Vancouver
Save percentage (min 5 starts) – 92.1 Robin Lehner – Vegas
Quality starts – 11 – Jacob Markstrom – Vancouver
In addition to my playoff pool relying on the Avalanche going through against Dallas, I find it difficult to believe that they are down three games to one against the Dallas Stars who scored five goals or more only five times in the regular season. Colorado's issue is not scoring itself, but preventing goals and this is a combination of goaltending (Pavel Francouz has one quality start in six games), lack of depth on defence (Erik Johnson is still out with injury) and offence. The team as a whole has averaged over 36.5 shots per game and have allowed 26.1 shots per game through the playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon has dominated the playoffs so far with 21 points in 12 games and could very well be leaving the bubble on Monday after 13 games. Of all the four series at three games to one, this is the likeliest to see the team that is down, come back and win in seven.
As was mentioned, the Stars had trouble scoring for most of the regular season, but for whatever reason have lit the bubble up in Edmonton. Jamie Benn has found his touch with 11 points in 13 games and Denis Gurianov leads the team with eight goals while Joe Pavelski has seven. The team has 12 players with two goals or more in the playoffs, while Miro Heiskanen is still playing great with 16 points. Secondary scoring is starting to kick in with Roope Hintz and Radek Faksa making their presence felt in this series. Other than an ugly goal in game four, Anton Khudobin has been solid enough in net for the Stars with a 91.1 save percentage and five quality starts in 11 games.
With the Canucks leading 3-2 after two periods in Game four, I thought this series had a chance to be even, but alas the game is 60 minutes and Vegas proved that if you are the better team on the night you should win the game. The Canucks bounced back from being shutout in game three and were hoping that Tyler Myers coming back into the lineup might help their back end. He didn't. Jordie Benn would have been the better option as Myers looked unconditioned and uncomfortable for most of the game. The loss was hardly on Myers, as Jacob Markstrom looked ordinary and Vegas continue to dictate the play for at least 40 of the 60 minutes in each. Elias Pettersson is having a fantastic playoff with 17 points in 14 games, along with Quinn Hughes with 13 points in 14 games (Hughes has struggled in this series but had his best game in game four). Bo Horvat leads the NHL with nine goals and J.T. Miller has more goals (five) in 14 games this year than (three) in his prior 61 playoff games.
In-game four, Vegas elected to start Marc-Andre Fleury in the back to back game, even though Robin Lehner had just posted a shutout in game three. It wasn't pretty but the plan worked as the Golden Knights won game four 5-3. Shea Theodore continues to impress with 14 points in 12 games, while Mark Stone shares the team lead with 14 points as well. One of my dark horses, Chandler Stephenson only has two goals and three points in 12 games but continues to look dangerous most games. Max Pacioretty has found his scoring touch again and has five goals in his eight games, while Alex Tuch leads the team with seven goals. Much like Dallas, this team spreads out the scoring so well, as Vegas has 11 players with two goals or more. I'd love to be wrong but I just don't see the Canucks being able to outplay Vegas three games in a row.
There is potential in both bubbles to have no seven game series, but I believe there will be at least one from the West. The condensed schedule has had an effect on all the teams that are playing and those that manage the best should prevail. I thought St. Louis tired against the Canucks in Round one, but I don't see Vegas doing the same in round two, while I've expected Dallas to fade at some point, but it just hasn't happened.
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