2021 NHL West Division Predictions
If you’re a fan of old-school hockey and love watching 2-1 games every single night, the NHL’s newly-minted West Division might be the division for you. Outside of the Avalanche, who boast elite talent up and down the lineup, this division figures to be extremely low scoring amongst the other six teams in the division. For starters, you have three of the top six teams from last year in respect of goals-against average and four of the top-13 teams, with Vegas sitting 13th. Goaltending and stud defensemen are the reason for that, and it’ll be interesting to see if in a 56-game game regular season, with no preseason to speak of, if the defense will be ahead of the offensive gurus or if the free-flowing offense and elite skill will be too much for cold goalies to handle.
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Colorado Avalanche +160
Colorado was a good team last season. However, for all their hard work during the regular season, they were ousted in seven games in their second round of action. They have a solid core of players with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, and Cale Maker on defense, as he won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. The problem lies between the pipes as Philip Grubauer simply isn’t a goalie you can rely on to get you deep into the playoffs. The Avalanche have the benefit – if you can call it that – of having a weaker (on paper) division than the rest of the teams in the other conferences. Sure, the Avalanche have to go through the Stanley Cup Champions of 2019, and the Finalists in 2017, but the Avs know they only have to be one of the top four teams in the division to secure a playoff spot. Do I trust the Avs in a 56-game season to win the division? As I mentioned above, it’s all going to depend on how well Grubauer plays and if the offense can replicate their 3.37 goals per game (fourth overall) from last year.
Vegas Golden Knights +185, St. Louis Blues +550.
As for Vegas, they are going to play their typical brand of hockey whether the fans and opposing teams like it or not. They’ll be relentless on the forecheck and then lull you to sleep with a defensive system once they get a lead. They have a solid one-two punch in net with Lehner and Fleury, and the defensive unit got a boost this offseason with the acquisition of Alex Pietrangelo. He will slot into the top pair and push Shea Theodore to the second pair, which gives them much more stability on the back end. There is a reason they are co-favorites with the Avalanche for the Stanley Cup. And if I had to choose one of the teams in this division to make a run to the Finals, it would be Vegas. However, getting into the playoffs and winning the division are two different things. I don’t think the Golden Knights offer up any value at +185 in a division that’s got three teams that are going to exchange blows all season long.
As far as the Blues go, this could be somewhat of a rebuilding season for them. And as such, they could suffer a setback. For starters, they lost their captain, Pietrangelo, in free agency to a division rival. And Alex Steen decided to hang up the skates. The Blues’ strength should be their defensive abilities. And if they can replicate their 2.68 goals-against average, they may have a chance. Unfortunately, that’s a big ask, and we just don’t see the Blues scoring enough goals to keep up with the high-scoring Avalanche.
Arizona Coyotes +1100, Minnesota Wild +1200, San Jose Sharks +1300, Los Angeles Kings +1500, Anaheim Ducks +1500.
This is going to sound like a bit of a cop-out, but I don’t think any of these teams will be able to win this division. The three teams from LA are all going through rough times, and I don’t believe any of them will be the fourth team (along with Colorado, Vegas, St. Louis) to secure a playoff spot. Instead, the final spot will be occupied by either the Coyotes or Wild, and it’s essentially a coin flip on which team will take the honors. The Coyotes ranked fourth last year in GAA at 2.61, while the Wild were way down in 24th at 3.14. The problem with the Yotes is that they don’t score very many goals (2.71) compared to the Wild at 3.16 per game. In a 56-game schedule, it’s all about preference on which strength you trust – offense or defense.
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