NHL Playoff Prediction: Western Conference Round 1
Eastern Conference prediction can be found here.
(C1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (WC2) Nasvhille Predators
The Blackhawks finished atop the Western Conference once again and drew the Predators in the first round. A lot of Chicago’s success this season came from young players, like Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz, finally breaking through. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin were dominant yet again, and Jonathan Toews picked up his game near the end of the year.
The Predators main concern has to be goaltending. Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are not a bad tandem, but Rinne especially has not been as good in recent years as he was in the past.
Much like Washington, it’s hard to bet against Chicago early on in the playoffs.
Verdict: Chicago in 6
(C2) Minnesota Wild vs. (C3) St. Louis Blues
For the second time in three years, the Wild and Blues will be facing off in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Wild won the series 4-2 the last time around.
The Wild are much better this year than they were two years ago and the Blues are much worse. The goaltending for the Blues is a specific concern, as they do not have a stable 1/2 tandem anymore with Brian Elliott gone.
A key factor, in my opinion, for this series is Zach Parise and Eric Staal. If the two veterans can step up for Minnesota, they’ll experience success in a big way.
Verdict: Minnesota in 6
(P1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC1) Calgary Flames
This is the most interesting first round matchup this season. The Ducks only had a halfway decent season under Randy Carlyle, despite the fact that they finished first in their division.
As for the Flames, they’re a pesky squad. Matthew Tkachuk has proved, in just one season, to be one of the best pests in the league. Brian Elliott has also proved to be a good backbone in net that the Flames, something they have not had in a few years.
Verdict: Flames in 6
(P2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (P3) San Jose Sharks
Lead by Connor McDavid, and for the first time since 2006, the Oilers are back in the playoffs. The resurgence of the Oilers has been remarkable to watch. McDavid, Draisaitl, and Talbot have been nothing short of spectacular this season.
For the Sharks, they’re coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance in which they lost to the Penguins. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are coming into unrestricted free agency this summer and time is running out for both of them.
In terms of the series, this should be an exciting one. It’s hard to find two hungrier teams for a deep playoff run than the Oilers and Sharks. Connor McDavid shifting into a second gear is a scary thought as well, at least for the rest of the NHL.
Verdict: Sharks in 7