Continuing my little look at each of the playoff match-ups, being that the Stars are out of it and at home again, here is my follow up to my predictions for the Eastern Conference earlier today. My quick thoughts and predictions for each of the match-ups in the West:
Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks: This could be the most interesting 1st vs 8th seed series in years. The two teams have history with the Blackhawks having knocked out the Canucks the last two seasons, and the two teams have built a great playoff rivalry. But it is different this time. Chicago got in by the Stars not winning on the final day, and their regular season was nothing like the last two. They still have the top level scoring in Sharp, Kane, Hossa, and Toews. And they have a good defensive core. But the depth is not the same and again they come in with a rookie goalie. The Canucks cruised through the season for the most part and have dominated in all facets of the game. The only question for them is their defense getting guys back from injuries and again Luongo. Can he finally take this team to a title? In the end the rivalry should be fun and I’m rooting for the Blackhawks again (2nd favorite team), but this 8th seed won’t move on. Canucks in 6.
San Jose Sharks vs LA Kings: A normally great divisional rivalry in the Pacific now will carry over into the playoffs. We all know the Sharks history, consistent top seed every season with a lot of talent but they never seem to be able to navigate through the West to even making the Finals. Last year they finally got to the conference finals only to be swept by Chicago. But this time they have Antti Niemi in net, not the Blackhawks and they are on fire heading into the playoffs. The Kings on the other hand were looking to improve on their playoff trip last season, but the young team is now in a bad position with top offensive threats Kopitar and Williams both injured and out. They have a good defense and one of the top young goalies in the league in Quick. But now their offense looks halfway there and their chances are gone one a team that was already not top-notch offensively. Sharks in 5.
Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes: A repeat match-up from last season’s 4v5 series, the Red Wings won last season and hope to bypass the ‘Yotes again to try and make another run at the Cup. The Red Wings have their elite forwards and a couple of world class Dmen, but injuries again have given the Red Wings problems. And they are still not fully healthy. Howard in the crease has been up and down at times this season. He has shown he can steal a game more times then not, but sometimes just slips in games. The Coyotes have their system and goaltending, but their game has yet to translate to much in the postseason. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone, and they will try to rely on special teams and Bryzgalov. In the end I think Detroit again slides by the Coyotes, Red Wings in 6.
Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators: This match-up came out of the middle of nowhere. The Ducks for a long time were struggling for playoff positioning and just bouncing around the 8th seed. But over the last few weeks of the season they caught fire and climbed up into 4th in the final games. They have probably the scariest line in the NHL and past Perry, Getzlaf, and Ryan, Selanne has had a stellar season and the do have some 2nd line scoring. Just not a lot past the first two lines. The defense is an interesting mix along with the team having to fill the void of Hiller being out. But Emery and Ellis have been strong at times and they might stay on fire and just try to score enough. The Predators on the other hand are a team that has been in this position a lot of this season and they have been in this position when entering the playoffs the last couple of seasons. Good just maybe not great. The have a great goalie in Rinne and they play an amazing defensive game around him. The problem in the past has always been their offense when they do get to the playoffs. But this season they added Mike Fisher for some forward help and they are just getting a couple of guys back from interesting. In the end it looks like offense vs defense. But this time I think the Preds finally make a trip to the second round. Nashville in 7.