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How the West was Not Won: No Repeat in Vegas, Disappearing Act in Winnipeg

Quarterfinal Losers In Western Conference Look Forward

The Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights ended their runs with major disappointments while the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators could take some positives toward next season after the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Winnipeg had a remarkable regular season against big NHL odds – tied for fourth in the league with 110 points – and won Game 1 against Colorado before being outscored 22-8 in four straight losses. Vegas won the first two at Dallas, but dropped four of the next five.

How the West was Not Won: No Repeat in Vegas, Disappearing Act in Winnipeg
Connor Hellebuyck #37 Of The Winnipeg Jets / David Lipnowski / Getty Images North America / Getty Images Via Afp

The Kings recorded at least 99 points for the third straight season and finished third in the Pacific Division before losing to Edmonton 4-1 in the first round. Nashville put together an 18-game point streak from Feb. 17 to March 26, but lost to Pacific winner Vancouver 4-2.

All four teams should have the tools to return to the playoffs, but some big decisions have to be made to correct weaknesses.

The Golden Knights were +1100 to win the Cup in the Las Vegas hockey odds before the playoffs and the Jets +1500.

 

Jets Hope All Lessons Learned

Winnipeg has now lost five of its last six playoff series, but this season’s defeat might have hurt the most.

The Jets were three points out of first place in the Central Division and tied for the league lead in goals against per game, led by Vezina Trophy front-runner Connor Hellebuyck in net. But they could not contain the Avalanche.

 

 

 

If the Jets are to move to the next level and lower their NHL future odds, several questions must be answered. Who replaces retiring coach Rick Bowness, a finalist for the Jack Adams Award? Which unrestricted free agents will they bring back? What tweaks to the roster are needed?

Defensemen Brenden Dillon, Dylan DeMelo and Colin Miller are UFAs, along with forwards Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli. You would expect every effort will be made to bring back Dillon, DeMelo and Monahan. Forward Cole Perfetti (19 goals) should get a bigger role, too.

 

Kings a Few Smart Moves Away

Los Angeles looked like a contender in the West on many nights, but seemed a couple of steps from becoming a consistent force.

The Kings started strong (20-7-4), hit a rough spot in the middle that ended Todd McLellan’s coaching tenure, and recovered to make the playoffs for the third straight season. They won Game 2 in Edmonton, but managed only four goals in the final three games.

The first question is who will be the Los Angeles goalie next season. The Kings don’t have one under contract. They could bring back Cam Talbot and/or David Rittich, but it is likely they explore the trade market.

The Kings also need contracts for UFA defenseman Matt Roy and RFA forward Quinton Byfield, who had a breakout season (20 goals, +19). There is a bright future for Byfield and defenseman Brandt Clarke that may make them a solid bet online in 2024-25.

There has been talk about a trade of disappointing center Pierre-Luc Dubois.

 

Big Offseason for Golden Knights

The Vegas roster may have a few new faces next season, but the Golden Knights should be a factor again.

Leading scorer Jonathan Marchessault is an unrestricted free agent, along with fellow forwards Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier, Michael Amadio and Anthony Mantha. Veteran defenseman Alec Martinez is also a UFA.

“We’re probably not going to be able to bring everyone back,” captain Mark Stone told reporters. “It’s just the nature of hockey. It kind of brings tears to your eyes when you realize that you’re not going to be with the same group of guys.”

Vegas did add forward Tomas Hertl and defenseman Noah Hanifin at the trade deadline and will have them long term. But the Knights will need to be a little better than 13th in scoring and 12th in goals against to be worthy of your sport bets.

 

Preds Taking Steps Forward

Nashville gave Vancouver all it could handle in the first round, but managed just 12 goals in the series – primarily against backup goalies.

The Predators were 10th in the league in scoring in the regular season, but they will need an upgrade. Ryan O’Reilly (69 points) is a solid second-line center. Nashville needs a No. 1 pivot.

Filip Forsberg (94 points) and defenseman Roman Josi (85) lead the way. Forward Tommy Novak and Luke Evangelista are making strides while former 17th overall pick Joakim Kemell could be ready to make an impact.


The biggest decision is what to do in goal? Juuse Saros has one year left on his contract and Yaroslav Askarov appears ready for a full-time NHL gig.

 

 

Questions of the Day

Which of the quarterfinal losers in the West will have the best record next season?


Vegas. The Golden Knights need better health, but always find the right players to add.

Which of the four teams is most likely to miss the playoffs?


Los Angeles. The Pacific Division may be deeper.

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