Now its time to recap how the North and West divisions faired. If you missed the East and Central divisions, here’s the link to that article:
Colorado Avalanche sweep St. Louis Blues 4-0
Shocker? Nope, not one bit. The Avs took Game 4 with a 5-2 victory to complete the first round sweep. During the series, Colorado outscored St. Louis 20-7. Again, not much of a shock for the President Trophy winners. This is a team with a very scary lineup top to bottom (Rantanen, MacKinnon and Landeskog to name a few). The Av’s also played in a very short four game series. A healthy lineup only adds to their fully equipped arsenal.
For St. Louis, they’ll sing the “blues” into the offseason with work to do (see what I did there?). The first priority that should be on their to-do list is to address the aggressiveness on the ice, specifically the defensive side of the puck. A free agent either has to be brought in or a trade has to be made, period. Too many times the Blues were pushed around in their own zone, which was not the case in their 2019 Cup run. A weak defense being bullied isn’t going to help get pucks out of their zone. And with pucks not being pushed out of their zone, the offense can’t generate much. More size is needed, so this should be a top priority.
Vegas Golden Knights squeeze past Minnesota Wild 4-3
Minnesota has nothing to be ashamed of, and should be very proud of forcing a Game 7. Overall, the team took a huge step from previous seasons and is also another team on my radar to watch for next year. For the Golden Knights, there was a lot of pressure on them for not losing Game 7. They didn’t, but many believe this series should not have gone to the final game. It was almost a 3-1 series choke for the Knights, getting shutout in a very important Game 6.
Like I said, Minnesota is a team to watch for sure. The first place I look for improvement is at the forward position. The Wild have depth, but lack a star player. Ryan Hartman and Jordan Greenway are a few to name. They are great depth players, but if Minnesota wants to push farther than the first round they need a flashy player. Kirill Kaparizov scored 51 points in the 55 games he played. More of a reason for this is that the Wild averaged 1.86 goals a game. Unless you’re shutting out every game, this is not a good goals for average. More offensive firepower is needed.
Another area that needs to be addressed is with Zach Parise. Parise will soon be 37 years old and is hitting the Wild with a 7.5 million dollar cap hit. A trade partner will likely be difficult to find, so this leaves the team in a tough spot. Parise’s ice time was also cut for the final stretch of the season and sat the final three games of the series as a healthy scratch. Will Parise be on the move? This is something to watch as the offseason rolls on.
Montreal Canadiens Upset Toronto Maple Leafs in 7
Yeah. I think I’ll keep this one nice and short because 100% of Leafs fans have already heard the spiel countless times.
Where do I even begin though? For five years the Leafs have basically had the same core and still cannot find any answers when it comes to the playoffs. Sure, one can argue that they faced last years Cinderella team who defeated the Penguins in the play-in round so maybe there was a little magic left from then. The Leafs also were not in the same division as the Lightning or Bruins, two teams they have struggled against in the past. A clear path to the second round was projected, but they still found a way to lose. As a fan, it must be hard to watch a Game 7 loss after blowing a 4-1 lead in the 3rd against the Bruins. But this one felt different. This loss stung more.
This was a clear-cut series win for Toronto. Maybe they would lose a game and still come out on top 4-1. But to lose 4-3 to a Montreal team who was technically under .500 for the season (4 OT losses) is unacceptable. The question for Toronto’s front office is the same we all have: now what. Cleary there is a lot of talent. Guys like John Tavares, and Austin Matthews are just a few to name. There might be no straight answer for this question. I’ll keep it short before I ramble on for another 10 pages.
Winnipeg Jets sweep Edmonton Oilers 4-0
I noticed a common theme in the North and West. Either you were swept or you had to go the full seven game length. Edmonton looked flat throughout the whole series. They lost to a Jets team who played like a full unit, motivated to push towards a playoff run. The Jets also did a good job at holding an all-star like Connor McDavid to 5 points throughout the series. That was crucial and it was a key reason as to why they advanced. It’s also painful to be eliminated in triple overtime.
The Oilers are in a similar situation the Maple Leafs, but not at the same time. The stars are there like McDavid and Draisaitl, but there is a need for more depth at the bottom 6. Whether these moves are made in free agency or a trade, moves are necessary. Edmonton did very little to address any holes before the trade deadline, but cleary losing 4-0 in the first round proved there are multiple holes. McDavid and Draisaitl are pieces to build around. Not giving them the help they need not only wastes their careers away, but also wastes Edmonton’s caches of actually going on a deep playoff run.