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Central Division – First Round Picks

Who gets through this playoff gauntlet?

It took until the last games of the last day on the NHL schedule, but the Western Conference playoff bracket is finally set! Now, it’s time for our picks and predictions. Before we dive into the Central Division, make sure to also check out our Pacific Division, Atlantic Division and Metropolitan Division picks. Once you’re done here, sign up for our FREE Bracket Challenge before at!

Winnipeg vs Colorado

This first round series between two Central Division rivals should be a great one. While the Jets hit their stride to end the season with eight straight wins, Colorado did not, and lost four of their final six games. One of those losses included a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the team they’re now facing off against in this series. So, can the Avs turn things around? Of course they can. When a team has Nathan Mackinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen leading the way, they can never be counted out. However, the supporting cast is going to need to improve if Colorado wants a real shot at making another Cup run. Alex Georgiev wasn’t great to end the season, and the Avs still haven’t found a secondary scorer that even compares to Nazem Kadri in 2022. 

For the Jets, it’s that lack of depth that they’ll be looking to exploit. Winnipeg is deep and tough at forward, and with Connor Hellebuyck in net, they have a better chance at slowing down Colorado’s best players than most teams do. Last year’s playoff exit was a bad one and it’s hard to imagine they don’t come into this series looking to prove themselves. That means hard defending, finishing checks, and generally making life miserable for every member of the Avalanche. The Jets can also draw on this season’s results against Colorado as a source of confidence, as they outscored the Avs 17-4 over three regulation wins. As good as Colorado’s stars are, I think the better overall team in this series can get it done. It’ll be close, but I’m taking the JETS IN SEVEN. 

Dallas vs Vegas

In the end, you’ve got to beat the best to be the best. However, Dallas probably didn’t love the fact that Vegas slid into the Western Conference’s final wild card spot on the last day of the season. Although many people, including me, still believe that the Stars are the team to beat in the West, the defending champion Golden Knights are no joke. With Mark Stone most likely returning, they’ve got a very similar lineup to the one that got it done last year, with additions like Tomas Hertl and Noah Hanifin filling in to bolster the roster. Vegas also played Dallas very well this season, winning all three times the two teams met. If Adin Hill can get hot in net, this will almost certainly be a very tight series.

For the Central Division champs, it’s all about sticking to what they’ve been doing. The team comes into playoffs with a record of 12-2-0 in their last fourteen games and virtually no holes in their lineup. Simply said, there’s a reason they’re the top seed in the West. Although Jake Oettinger wasn’t terrific statistically this year, he has proven himself in postseason play, which has to be comforting for Stars fans. Although the team hasn’t won a Cup in over twenty years, this Dallas roster is full of guys with playoff experience. They’ll be looking to lean on that experience in the face of a very tough first round matchup with the Golden Knights.

Overall, I think Dallas’ depth will get it done in this series. Like Vegas last year, this Stars team can come in waves, and I think the waves will be large enough to drown Vegas out. I like the STARS IN SIX

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