Avalanche Win Presidents' Trophy; Latest 2021 NHL Playoff Picture

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 14, 2021

Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

All the Colorado Avalanche had to do to win the Presidents' Trophy and the top overall seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was beat the lowly Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. 

So that's what they did. 

Thanks to five goals in the second period, the Avalanche cruised 5-1. Tyson Jost had two goals, while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky got on the board as well. 

Mikko Rantanen and Conor Timmins chipped in with two assists apiece. 

And so Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche (83 points) jumped ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights (82 points) to win the West Division, claiming the Presidents' Trophy and top overall seed in the postseason.

That will set up a first-round series between the Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, while the Golden Knights will face the Minnesota Wild. 

The rest of the playoff picture was already determined before Thursday night. 

In the North Division, the 1-seed Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the 4-seed Montreal Canadiens in a battle of storied franchises, while Connor McDavid and the 2-seed Edmonton Oilers face the 3-seed Winnipeg Jets. 

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In the Central Division, the 1-seed Carolina Hurricanes will take on the 4-seed Nashville Predators, while the 2-seed Florida Panthers will go head-to-head with the defending champion 3-seed Tampa Bay Lightning in a battle for Florida bragging rights.

And finally in the East, Sidney Crosby and the 1-seed Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the 4-seed New York Islanders, while Alex Ovechkin and the 2-seed Washington Capitals ready for the 3-seed Boston Bruins.

The NHL playoffs will have a unique format this year, with the first two rounds being completely intradivisional. Once all four divisions determine a winner, the four teams remaining will be re-seeded based on the regular-season standings. 

So in theory, the top-seeded Avalanche—traditionally in the Western Conference—could face a team traditionally in the Eastern Conference like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals before the Stanley Cup Final. That could lead to some fun, unusual matchups and potentially conference rivals facing off in the Final. 

Just imagine a Toronto-Boston matchup in the Stanley Cup Final. It should be an interesting postseason as the NHL experiments with a new format.  

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