NHL Western Conference Playoff Preview
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for—the Stanley Cup playoffs! The second season is by far the most exciting season, and it most certainly won’t disappoint this year. There are some great matchups this year and some will go down to the wire to decide who continues their quest to 16 wins. The Western Conference has been a dogfight all year—with some surprising teams making the playoffs for the first time in a long time. With that, let’s take a look at each quarterfinal matchup.
St.Louis Blues (1) and Minnesota Wild (4)
Prediction: Minnesota in 7
UPSET ALERT! That’s right, I’m going with Minnesota to upset the Blues in the first round. The logic is really simple: goaltending wins championships. Besides Carey (Vezina) Price, Devan Dubnyk had the best GAA (2.07) and SV% (.929) in the NHL this season. What Dubnyk accomplished this year was almost impossible to believe considering he finished last season as a backup AHL goalie. The Blues are a great hockey team and are definitely going to make this a series, but the edge in net goes to the Wild, and in the end, that’s what counts. It definitely wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m pretty confident the Wild are a better team than most people give them credit for.
Nashville Predators (2) and Chicago Blackhawks (3)
Prediction: Chicago in 6
UPSET ALERT! Well, maybe not as big an upset as my first prediction but still an upset. Nashville is a great team, but I don’t think they have what it takes to beat the Blackhawks. After goaltending, experience is key to winning a playoff series, and Chicago has a lot of playoff experience in the last six years. Pekka Rinne was lights out at the beginning of the season but struggled after coming back from injury—going 12-11-4. Its not terrible, but your best player in the playoffs has to be your goalie, and right now Rinne is not at his best. The Predators don’t have the skill to compete with guys like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and despite having two of the leagues best defenseman in Shea Weber and Roman Josi, their fire power up front just won’t cut it. Chicago will be moving on to next round.
Anaheim Ducks (1) and Winnipeg Jets
Prediction: Anaheim in 5
Everyone seems to believe the Jets could possibly make it to the Western Conference finals—I’m not one of them. The Ducks are a powerhouse team, and they will prove to be too much for the Jets to handle. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry both had great seasons, and both will continue to be key parts of the Duck’s success this postseason. Winnipeg sneaked into the playoffs thanks to Ondrej Pavelec’s three straight shutouts and some help from Edmonton beating the Kings. I don’t believe Pavelec will be able to repeat what he did at the end of the season, and despite Anaheim’s goaltending situation being pretty uncertain right now, both goalies remain a better option than Pavelec. This should be a relatively short series. Sorry, Jets fans.
Vancouver Canucks (2) and Calgary Flames (3)
Prediction: Vancouver in 7
Raise your hand if you picked Calgary to make the playoffs this season. * crickets * Yeah, that’s what I thought. Bob Hartley did everything right this season—heck he even managed to turn Jiri Hudler into a top ten point player in the NHL! However, this is where the luck runs out. The Flames are going to have their hands full with a very good Vancouver team, and although they will put up a fight and bring this series to a game seven, they will not be going to the next round. For players like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, the expectations to lead the team will be too much for them to handle, and with Ryan Miller returning from injury, Vancouver becomes an even harder team to compete with. The Flames finished 28th in the league in shots per game (27.5) and were one of the worst Corsi teams in the league (28th in the league in 5v5 CF%). Calgary has been a great story this season, but they aren’t built to go the distance and will not be able to get past Vancouver.
Stats and references provided by NHL.com and stats.hockeyanalysis.com