NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup
NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup

In January, I ranked Canada’s four Stanley Cup contenders. Almost three months later, the Jets, Oilers, Canucks, and Maple Leafs’ first-round matchups are set, providing clarity to their respective paths toward the ultimate goal. While all of these teams are legitimate contenders, there’s a chance none will even make it to the second round of the NHL playoffs. That’s how tough the league is this year. Which Canadian team has the best matchup to start the 2024 NHL Playoffs? Let’s break it down in the order I ranked them back in January.

NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup #1: Winnipeg Jets vs Colorado Avalanche

The Matchup

The Jets have been inconsistent in the second half of the season, falling off their prolific early-season pace. They’ve had multiple lengthy losing streaks, including a six-game winless streak that preceded six consecutive victories. The highlight of the win streak was a 7-0 thrashing of the Avalanche team they will face in round one. Despite that victory, this matchup isn’t ideal for Winnipeg. The Avs are a bonafide contender, determined to add another Stanley Cup to their trophy case.


Goaltending should be Winnipeg’s biggest advantage in this series. Presumed Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck will have to outduel counterpart Alexander Georgiev to give the Jets a chance. After a stellar first year with the Avalanche, Georgiev has had a poor second season, sporting a sub-900 save percentage, and conceding more than 3 goals a game.

NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup

Georgiev also has a limited playoff record, with only three wins in seven starts. Unlike Hellebuyck, Georgiev must prove he can backstop a team on an extended playoff run. Hellebuyck on the other hand, needs to perform better than he did in the 2023 playoffs, when Winnipeg lost in five games to Vegas.


Defensively, 2022 Conn Smythe winner Cale Makar will be a handful for the Jets. Otherwise, Winnipeg will hope their defensive depth is superior to Colorado’s. Beyond a strong top-four, the Avalanche’s third pair is questionable, especially if Samuel Girard isn’t healthy enough to start the series. The Jets must take advantage of the Avalanche when one or both of Jack Johnson and Caleb Jones are on the ice.

NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup

The Jets on the other hand boast a defensive core with eight serviceable NHL defencemen, with a nice mix of offensive prowess, defensive conscience, and size. Despite their depth, it’s uncertain if Winnipeg has a defensive pair capable of slowing down MVP frontrunner Nathan Mackinnon. The Jets lack a top-tier shutdown pair, which could be a major problem facing such elite competition.


The forward matchup is a similar story. With Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen, Colorado has the best forwards in this matchup. They also have plenty of players with proven track records in the playoffs. They may not be as deep as the Jets, but Valeri Nichushkin, Artturi Lehkonen, and Ross Colton all know how to get it done in the postseason. If Jonathan Drouin and Casey Mittelstadt can contribute too, the Avalanche will be difficult to beat.

The Jets, however, have a rare mix of star power and depth, especially after the additions of Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli. Winnipeg has 13 forwards who scored 10 goals or more, and they will need contributions from throughout the lineup to overcome the Avalanche. The Jets have used that depth to compensate for their lack of elite scorers this season. Mark Schiefele led the team with 72 points, just over half of Mackinnon’s 138.

NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup

Despite Winnipeg’s impressive depth, Colorado has the edge up front, especially considering their experience. Winnipeg’s forwards were a disappointment in last year’s playoffs. Neil Pionk led the team in scoring with seven assists in five games. Their top-scoring forward was the now-departed Blake Wheeler.


Despite Winnipeg’s advantage in goaltending and impressive depth on both forward and defence, I like Colorado’s chances. The Avalanche have three of the top four players in this series, and they have cup-winning experience on their side too. Stars shine in the playoffs, and I won’t bet against my Hart trophy pick, Nathan Mackinnon. Unfortunately, the Jets are stuck in a division with three contenders. Losing their grip on the Central Division title will make getting out of the first round too tough for Winnipeg.

Avalanche in 6.

NHL Playoffs Canadian Matchup