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Evaluating Vegas Golden Knights 3 toughest potential NHL playoff opponents

Noah Strang
Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights are in an unfamiliar place: the playoff bubble. For a franchise only familiar with success since its inception, this season has been a relative disappointment. After barely missing the Stanley Cup Finals last year, the Golden Knights are now in danger of missing the NHL playoffs entirely.

While far from ideal, there is still hope for the Golden Knights. As it stands right now, their healthy lineup exceeds the salary cap. For now, they’re using the long-term injury reserve to be cap compliant. If Vegas makes the playoffs, it is no longer restricted financially and could use Mark Stone and Jack Eichel – a deadly duo to unleash on the rest of the league – together.

Even if they can make the playoffs, the Golden Knights will still have a lot of work cut out for them. There are plenty of strong teams in the Western Conference that stand in their way on their journey to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Related: NHL games today – TV schedule for the Stanley Cup playoffs

Here are three different Western Conference teams that would be a difficult matchup for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Colorado Avalanche

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche have had some fierce battles in recent years. Last season, Vegas won the playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche in six games after a Game 1 blowout loss.

The Avalanche are the Stanley Cup favorites this season, just a dominant team that no one wants to play against. They’re fast, tough, and supremely skilled. Colorado will also be looking for revenge after its loss last season.

The Golden Knights played against the Avalanche three times this season, losing twice. The games were hard-fought and a playoff series between these two strong squads would leave the winner wounded for the next round.

St Louis Blues

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

While the Blues haven’t been as successful during the regular season as the other two teams on this list, they did a Stanley Cup just a few seasons ago. Many of those same players are still on the team, though that cup-winning team’s captain, Alex Pietrangelo, now plays for the Golden Knights.

The Blues have a very deep forward group that includes Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Kyrou, and Pavel Buchnevich among others. They have multiple lines that can score and they play a tough style of hockey. For those reasons, their roster is built perfectly for the playoffs and they usually overachieve in the postseason.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Knights, check out #VegasBorn rumors, rankings, and news here.

Dealing with the Blues’ depth would be a tough battle for the Golden Knights. During the regular season, they lost both matchups against St Louis, getting outscored 8-3 in the process.

Calgary Flames

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Calgary Flames
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Last but not least, a battle against the Calgary Flames in the playoffs would be a matchup of Pacific Division foes. The Flames have been atop the division for the majority of the season and made a few key trade deadline deals to bolster their depth.

Calgary has a strong goaltender in Jacob Markstrom that can steal a series. They also have some very creative forwards including Johnny Gaudreau, one of the more exciting players to watch across the NHL.

The two teams have played twice this season and still have one more battle left on the schedule. In their first two games, Vegas managed to win one and lose the other, though they were outscored 8-3. The Golden Knights have more playoff experience on their roster than the Flames, a crucial detail that could be a difference-maker.

Related: NHL games today, TV schedule