Hockey Night in Canada's Kelly
Colorado has been the best team in the
league the last 50 games so I'm going to go with them.
I think they have too much scoring for Minnesota.
That said, Minnesota is a terrific defensive team.
Their goaltenders -- (Dwayne) Roloson and (Manny) Fernandez
-- are underrated. And Patrick Roy can some times struggle
in the first round. If he's ever going to struggle that's
when it'll happen.
Prediction: Colorado wins series in six games
Western Conference picks | Harry
Neale's Eastern Conference picks
was a tale of two seasons for the Colorado Avalanche.
The two-time Stanley Cup champs struggled out
of the gate to a 10-8-9-4 mark. The slow start
cost ex-coach Bob Hartley his job in mid-December.
Avs shocked many hockey observers by naming rookie
bench boss Tony Granato as Hartley's successor.
The move worked. Colorado caught fire under Granato,
reeling off a 31-11-4-4 mark under his guidance.
They won 25 of their last 37 outings en route
to their ninth straight division title.
is as deep a team as there is in the NHL, but
two players stood out with remarkable performances
in 2002-03. Peter Forsberg put in an MVP-type
effort, winning the NHL scoring race with 106
points. Linemate Milan Hejduk had a breakout campaign,
winning the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's
top goal scorer. He was the only player to net
50 goals on the season. He went on a tear in the
second half, collecting 25 tallies in his final
looking rather pedestrian in the first half, goaltender
Patrick Roy also turned things around late in
the season, finishing with 35 wins.
two straight 82-game seasons, captain Joe Sakic
missed 24 games, mostly due to a broken foot.
However the Avs' forward is healthy heading into
would the lowest-scoring team among the playoff-bound
clubs strike fear among some of the Western Conferences
powerhouses? The answer is simple: award-winning
head coach Jacques Lemaire and his neutral-zone
stifling system that pushes defensive fundamentals
over run-and-gun flash has frustrated many a team
through the years and 2002-03 was no different.
The Wild allowed the fewest goals in the Western
Conference this season (178). Equally impressive,
Minnesota received a pair of stellar goaltending
performances from the platoon of Dwayne Roloson
and Manny Fernandez. Each set or equaled career
highs in wins, save-percentage and goals-against
Marian Gaborik led the Wild with 65 points. However,
Minnesota lacked a clear secondary scoring option
-- something that could hurt them in the playoffs.
Left winger Pascal Dupuis was the only other player
to hit the 20-goal mark, while no other Wild skater
reached the 50-point plateau.
Wild, who are headed to their first postseason
in team history, have the lowest payroll in the
NHL at $21.1 million US. It didn't show in the
standings, as the Wild had a team-high 42 victories
for 95 points on the year.
Colorado won the season series 2-1-2-0
Avalanche captured a tight season series with Minnesota,
but the Wild sent a message with its stingy defence.
The high-flying Avs managed just 14 goals in five encounters
with Jacques Lemaire's club.
Four of the five games were decided by just one goal,
including the last meeting, a 3-2 Colorado win at the
Pepsi Center on Feb. 15. Home-ice advantage was crucial
in this matchup, with each squad winning or tying in
its own rink.
Peter Forsberg led the Avs with seven points against
the Wild this season, while forward Jim Dowd countered
with five for Minnesota.
» (6) Minnesota
vs (7) Anaheim
Ottawa vs (2) New Jersey
react after winning their third Stanley Cup in the last decade.