Tonight the Stanley Cup Playoffs officially begin, and the No. 3 seed Minnesota will host the No. 6 seed Colorado in St. Paul in front of a packed house at the Xcel Energy Center.
These two teams have met before in the playoffs, and old memories of the 2003 series will be fresh in the minds of the fans and the players who played in it.
Minnesota was the winner in that series coming back from a 3-1 game deficit to win and move on to do the same against Vancouver, the next series setting an NHL record for the first team to come back from 3-1 games down twice in the same playoff year.
This time around there are some differences with Minnesota having home ice and a much more offensive lineup.
Brent Burns, the 23-year-old defenseman, set a team record for points by a defenseman with 47 and far surpasses any other defenseman on the Minnesota blue line.
Colorado will have veteran superstars Joe Sakic, Peter Forsburg, and Adam Foote to help lead the team while youngsters Paul Stastiny and Wojtek Wolski hope to lead the Avalanche into the next round.
Minnesota finished strong in the regular season going 6-2-2 in its final 10 games and hopes to carry that momentum in the first round.
Colorado finished strong as well going 5-0-1 in its final six games with the last win being against Minnesota at home.
If Minnesota is to win this series, they are going to need their defense to continue to dominate the blue line.
Minnesota's special teams have also done well with their penalty kill ranked second in the NHL, compared to Colorado's power-play, which is 29th in the league and hasn't generated much all season long.
Minnesota will also have to be physical especially in the offensive zone.
When Minnesota plays physical behind the red line, they are nearly impossible to beat with how well they cycle and move the puck around.
With Marian Gaborik, Brian Rolston, Pavol Demitra, and Pierre-Marc-Bouchard, Minnesota is very quick, and Colorado will have that to contend with.
If Colorado is to win, they need to do what they do best and that is to give the puck to Andrew Brunette behind the goal.
With 40 assists on the year, Brunette does his best work to find his favorite targets of Sakic and Stastiny in front of the net.
Colorado also needs to contain the speed of Minnesota.
Minnesota does very well in both tight and open ice. Colorado needs to be very physical against these Minnesota players to get the Wild off their offense.
Constant puck pressure will also make Minnesota have to make quick puck decisions and hopefully force turnovers.
The Avalanche also needs to find a way to get their power-play going.
In the playoffs, special teams can make or break a team, and when you have a man advantage, you need to capitalize on the opportunities to score. Throughout the regular season Colorado didn't do that.
Colorado did have some injuries with Sakic and Forsburg, but in the playoffs, the Avalanche need players like Brunette, Arnason, Wolski, and Stastiny to step up if they want to move on to the next round.
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