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NHL Western Conference Playoff preview: Avs aim to repeat

Can the Colorado Avalanche become the first Western Conference team to repeat as champions since the Oilers in 1988?

Colorado is the +675 favourite from the West to be crowned champions again but with much strong competition getting back to the Final won’t be an easy task.

Avs seek to repeat

The Avalanche swept the Edmonton Oilers in last season’s Western Conference Final before ending Tampa Bay Lightning’s dream to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions. 

Colorado suffered somewhat of a Stanley Cup hangover to begin the season but managed to turn things around and win the Central Division. 

Their regular season success was in large part due to strong performances from their superstar players, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar who will again seek to dominate in the post-season and they are +270 to win the Conference title again.

Kraken make debut appearance 

The Avalanche will face Seattle Kraken in the first round who will make their first Stanley Cup playoff appearance in their second season as a franchise. 

Led by a strong top six of forwards, the Kraken scored the third most goals in the regular season and are +250 to cause a shock and eliminate the reigning champions at the opening stage. 

Seattle's main weakness is in net where each of their goalies fell below a .895 save percentage in the regular season and they will need a major improvement in that area if they are to have any chance of meeting their +1600 odds of winning the Western Conference.

Vegas back in contention 

The Vegas Golden Knights missed the playoffs entirely last season but despite being hit by injuries again, fared much better and claimed the Pacific Division title and first seed in the West. 

Vegas have 12 players with more than 10 goals and that depth should serve them well as they aim to win their first Stanley Cup. 

The Golden Knights have had a carousel in net, but all their goalies have recorded a save percentage over .900 showing they will be a tough nut to crack and that makes them +500 to win the Western Conference.

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Hellebuyck gives Jets chance 

Vegas will meet Winnipeg Jets in the first round who have netminder Connor Hellebuyck to thank for their second Wild Card spot into the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Workhorse Hellebuyck finished the regular season with the third most wins (37) of all goalies and the fifth-best save percentage (.920), and he could single-handedly win Winnipeg any number of series. 

The Jets' top six forwards along with the first defensive pair also produced solid seasons, too, and they enter the postseason with real potential to cause an upset against the Golden Knights.

McDavid can lead Oilers to glory 

After winning their final nine games of the regular NHL season, the Oilers hit the playoffs high in confidence and in fine form. 

Edmonton's 50 wins was the most since 1986/87, and they are considered much stronger than the team which reached the Western Conference Final last season. 

The Oilers, +270 to go a step further and win the Western title this season, are led by Connor McDavid who registered an incredible 150 points in the regular season. 

McDavid was one of three Oilers with 100 points (also Leon Draisaitl and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins) which is the first time that's happened since the 1995/96 Pittsburgh Penguins and makes them +675 to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1990.

Kings have confidence in net 

The Los Angeles Kings have the daunting task of keeping out the Oilers' league leading offence, but after pushing them to Game 7 at the same stage last season, they know they have a roster that can withstand such tough opponents. 

The Kings' goalie tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Pheonix Copley allowed the second least goals in the regular season over the final six weeks and that stands them in good stead to meet their +215 odds of dumping out the high-powered Oilers.

Stars aim to shine 

Although the Dallas Stars lost first place in the Central Division to the Avalanche on the final day of the regular season, they enter the playoffs well built for success. 

Dallas went on a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and they are +650 to win the Western Conference again this season. 

Five of their skaters have at least 70 points and netminder Jake Oettinger has proven that he can stand on his head in the postseason and had the fourth most wins of any goalie in the regular season (37).

Wild out to prove themselves 

The Stars will take on the Minnesota Wild who have flirted with Stanley Cup Playoff success over the past few seasons but are yet to totally convince in the postseason. 

Minnesota will depend on Kirill Kaprizov to deliver the offence to get past the Stars and will need three-time Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury, 38, to roll back the years if they are to go on a deep postseason run and win the Western Conference.

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