#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings: Another year ended in disappointment in Vancouver, and this time things might really be shaken up because of it. The Canucks came into the playoffs as the top-seed in the West, but many questioned what they could really do without Daniel Sedin. In the end it might not have mattered if he played. The Canucks lost all three games in Vancouver and the Kings’ roster finally stepped up and played like you would think it could. The offense was still not overbearing, but enough to win and they have the talent to score from multiple lines. Roberto Luongo will be the scapegoat, but he received very little help in Game 1 and the defense should shoulder a lot more of the blame. MVP: Easily goes to Jonathan Quick. Quick’s 1.59 goals against and .953 save percentage are only the tip of the iceberg. Quick provided key saves, helped shutdown a dangerous Vancouver powerplay unit, and was the main reason why the Kings only gave up 1.6 goals a game in the series (tied for the best in the league in the first round). Key Stat: The Canucks five-on-five goal ratio ended up at 0.83, the 2nd worst in the West just ahead of the Sharks. In the end nothing went right for the Canucks and the Kings were more than willing to put them down for another year.
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks: Sometimes inexperience isn’t a bad thing. So far the Blues are proving this in the West. The Blues skated circles around the Sharks in route to a five game series win, and did so in every facet of the game. Ken Hitchcock kept the youthful newcomers rolling, and they sent the Sharks to another early exit. While most knew the Blues had the advantage in net with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, what many are overlooking is the fact that the Blues can also score. St. Louis finished the first round averaging 2.8 goals a game, good enough for fourth in the playoffs with a couple of game sevens to played tonight. MVP: I’m giving it to Patrik Berglund. The 2nd line center had a huge impact on the series, outplaying the Sharks 2nd line when matched-up against them and finding his way onto the scoresheets. Berglund had three goals and four assists in the five games, with two of his tallies coming on the PP. Pair that up with his +4 rating in the series, and Berglund looks like the obvious choice with the time in net being split for St. Louis. Key Stat: St. Louis posted a 33.3 powerplay percentage, 2nd best behind the Flyers. They cashed in on their chances and made San Jose pay mightily, something the Sharks couldn’t do at the other end. If they keep that up in the 2nd round against the Kings, they could have a big advantage in a series that should feature strong netminding and low scores.
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks: This year’s NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs might be all about the upsets, and so far the Coyotes have joined in. Many (including myself) had the Blackhawks winning this series. More talented roster, a team that has won it all before and wants to go back, and they could definitely score. But none of that matters sometimes in the playoffs, and the Coyotes and Mike Smith proved that. To survive in the West, goaltending is needed and the Coyotes definitely have it while the Blackhawks found out for sure that they didn’t. But not only did the Coyotes stop the high-powered Blackhawks, they also found ways to score. No Coyote had more than five points in the series, but they scored 2.83 goals per game. That’s the highest for any team not in the crazy Flyers vs. Pens series. MVP: Without a doubt it has to be Smith. The Blackhawks numerous times controlled long stints of games but were unable to score, and in the end it seemed to break them down in Game 6. And if he didn’t prove how big he was on his own, Corey Crawford helped by looking very mediocre at the other end. Key Stat: The Coyotes PK percentage of 94.7, best in the first round. Phoenix and Smith not only slowed down the likes of Toews, Sharp, Kane, and Keith, but they would have won this thing a lot sooner if not for a couple of miracle goals from Brent Seabrook. And no one could have predicted that.
#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings: After spending years looking up to the Red Wings, the Nashville Predators finally eclipsed the storied franchise. And the Predators didn’t just slip by their rivals, but they dismantled them. While all but one of the five games were one-goal games, Nashville looked dominate through most of the series. Shea Weber and probable free agent Ryan Suter anchored the defense as expected, and the Red Wings star talents were silenced. Pavel Datsyuk had just one goal in the series and Nicklas Lidstrom had zero points total, and even past that the Predators outworked the Red Wings throughout the lines nightly. They might have been close games on the scoreboard, but rarely was there a feeling that the Red Wings could win the series. MVP: Yet another goalie, as Pekka Rinne seems the best choice for the series. Rinne’s 1.81 goals against and numerous highlight reel saves bailed out the Preds whenever Detroit could get chances, and in the end the Red Wings couldn’t get anything past him at key points in games. Key Stat: Nashville’s 2.75 five-on-five goal ratio was by far the best in the first round of the playoffs. The Predators had powerplay issues, but when it came to even strength play they more than made up for it. With five-on-five play like that, a goal like Rinne, and the defenseman that they feature on the back-end, Nashville may be the team to beat in the West now.
Look for the Wrap-Up of the Easter Conference later today from Andrew right here on BlackoutDallas, and our 2nd round predictions coming this evening! Be sure to LIKE Blackout Dallas on Facebook and FOLLOW on Twitter!
Topics: Brian Elliott, Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, Daniel Sedin, Detroit Red Wings, Jonathan Quick, Ken Hitchcock, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Smith, Nashville Predators, NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrik Berglund, Pekka Rinne, Phoenix Coyotes, Roberto Luongo, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks