Even without leading scorer Matt Duchene, who is expected to miss most, if not all of the first round, the Avalanche boast an impressive core of young, talented forwards. Captain Gabe Landeskog will get his first taste of NHL playoff hockey along with super rookie Nathan MacKinnon. Landeskog's center, Paul Stastny does have playoff experience and the reliable Ryan
O'Reilly has six games under his belt as well including a miraculous overtime winner against San Jose in 2010.
The Wild have their superstar forward in Zach Parise. Their captain Mikko Koivu and former Buffalo Sabres Jason Pominville and the recently acquired Matt Moulson provide a threat as well.
Overall, the Avs finished the regular season fourth in the league averaging 2.99 goals per game while the Wild were 24th with 2.43.
In addition to Zach Parise, the Wild's other $98 million man is defenseman Ryan Suter. Suter played in all 82 games for Minny and averaged 29:24 minutes per game, which is the most in the league by over two full minutes.
The Avs have seen the emergence of first overall pick Erik Johnson and offensive and clutch threat Tyson Barrie this year but still rely on former no-name journeymen like Nate Guenin to round out their top six.
Minnesota has always had good defensive teams going back to the days of Jaques Lemaire.
With Niklas Backstrom and rookie Darcy Kuemper out with injuries and Josh Harding unavailable due to his unfortunate battle with MS, the Wild will be relying on the enigmatic and eccentric Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz's career has certainly been a roller coaster. Avs fans will of course remember a high of his career when he was with the Mighty Ducks and ease gallo shut the Avs down in the 2006 playoffs. He's then experienced some lows like getting bought out in Philly and playing this season in the ECHL and Edmonton. Since coming to the Wild however, he boasts an impressive 7-0-3 record. Which Ilya Bryzgalov will we see in this series? That is one of the biggest questions heading in. If it's the 2006 version, that could be bad news for the Avs but if it's the Philly or Edmonton version, it will be a short series.
Semyon Varlamov has been nothing short of sensational for the Avs this season. He has experienced some hardships such as his arrest earlier this season, which the charges were eventually dropped. There was also the disappointing finish to his Olympics experience in his home country of Russia. People speculated that the Olympics would affect Varly's play down the stretch but all he's done since then has propelled his team into first place. Head coach Patrick Roy has stated on numerous occasions that he believes his goalie should get consideration for both the Vezina and Hart trophies.
What hasn't Patrick Roy done in his first year as an NHL head coach? He's guided a team who finished last place in their division just one year ago to become division champions the very next year. First time in NHL history that's ever been done. Players like Varlamov, Erik Johnson, and Tyson Barrie were being questioned as to whether they could be legit NHL stars or not and all three have had breakout seasons under Roy to say the least. After a few underperforming seasons, Roy has also successfully revitalized center Paul Stastny. Once thought to be expendable with the future of the Avs' center core as Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, now re-signing Stastny will be a top priority for the Avs this summer.
Credit where it's due, Mike Yeo has done a good job getting the Wild into the playoffs with essentially their fourth choice in goal.
Prediction: Avalanche in 5