Playoff Preview: Western Conference Round 1
Preview for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Western Conference Round 1
Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs Winnipeg Jets (WC2)
This series may surprise some people. The Ducks are arguably the best team in the West, as their record shows (although Blues and Blackhawks fans will disagree), but the Jets are entering the playoffs hot. Ondrej Pavelec was lights out at the end of the season, and his play will be crucial for Winnipeg’s success. Winnipeg could put up a bigger fight than expected.
Both teams will play physical, with Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry leading they way. The pace will be tremendous, especially when the games head back to the MTS Center in Winnipeg. Goaltending will most likely determine this series, with John Gibson & Frederik Andersen being young and inexperienced, and Ondrej Pavelec being notoriously shaky before this season, and also having no playoff experience.
St. Louis Blues (C1) vs Minnesota Wild (WC1)
These familiar Central Division foes will face off once again, less than a week after they did in the final day of the regular season, a game in which St. Louis won 4-2. The Wild have the highest amount of points out of any wild card team at 100, and are no pushovers. Their rough start got them to where they are today — outside of the top three in the Central — but a resurgence, mainly on behalf of Devan Dubnyk, has carried them to a comfortable playoff position.
The Blues are no pushover, however, and this should be one of the best series out of the eight. St. Louis looks primed to make a deep run this year, especially with avoiding Chicago for at least the first round. Goaltending will be a big factor going in, whether Ken Hitchcock decides to go with the experienced Brian Elliot or the young kid Jake Allen. On the flipside, Minnesota has Devan Dubnyk, who may very well be nominated for the Vezina trophy thanks to his second half play. Expect this to go to seven games.
Nashville Predators (C2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (C3)
With the addition of Patrick Kane looming, the Blackhawks are set up for another deep run, although Nashville will put up a fight. Nashville’s success in this series will come on behalf of two factors: 1) if Pekka Rinne can regain his form from the first half of the season and 2) if their goal scoring can find it’s way again, something they couldn’t do as the Predators slid down the standings near the end of the season.
There’s no counting out either team in this series, but betting against Chicago’s top five (Keith, Seabrook, Toews, Kane, and Hossa) and experience is tough to do. Chicago also has the advantage down the middle, primarily with Mike Ribeiro having to face Jonathan Toews.
Vancouver Canucks (P2) vs Calgary Flames (P3)
Not many picked these two teams to face off in the playoffs at the start of the year, or make the playoffs at all for that matter, but here they are, and there’s no hate lost between the two rivals. It would have been more interesting with John Tortorella behind the Vancouver bench, but we can’t have it all.
The play of the Sedin twins has gotten Vancouver where they are today, and if they can keep it up, Vancouver is in good shape. Jonas Hiller will take the net for the Flames, where on the other side, either Eddie Lack or Ryan Miller will get the start, but don’t think the Canucks will hesitate to flip flop the goaltenders, depending how they are playing.