Stanley Cup Playoff Preview-Western Conference

Yes, this is a day late, but it’s still worth reading because a series is not decided after one game.  The shortened season made the regular season like a sprint and now they have rolled right over into the playoffs without much time off to stop and think.  Nothing better than some Stanley Cup Playoff hockey though.


#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #8 Minnesota Wild

Game one was much closer than anticipated especially with Josh Harding taking over for Nicklas Backstrom who was injured in warm ups.  That being said, the Chicago Blackhawks are still the best team in the league.  Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa will be far too much up front for the weak Minnesota Wild defensive core led by Norris Trophy Candidate Ryan Suter.  As long as Corey Crawford doesn’t choke and blow it for the Blackhawks, this one will be over quickly.  Blackhawks in 5

#2 Anaheim Ducks vs. #7 Detroit Red Wings

The Anaheim Ducks have had the second best goaltending duo this year with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller.  Hiller will be the go-to guy in the playoffs, though I’m not sure it will be enough.  Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan will have to lead the offense as usual and hope for more extra help from Teemu Selanne.  The defensive core is led by Norris Trophy Candidate Francois Beauchemin and Cam Fowler.  I’m not sure that they will be enough to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in check though.  The Red Wings defense has been mediocre at best all year, but with the emergence of Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith, as well as the elevated play of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, they have a shot.  Jimmy Howard will have to be at his best if the Wings want to advance and their ability to win at home will help them pull off this upset, albeit barely. Red Wings in 7

#3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks finally don’t have any pressure on them and Antti Niemi has been hot all year.  The Sharks could string together a few wins thanks to the rotating door in net in Vancouver.  Roberto Luongo will get the start in game 1, but who knows if he will stay there the whole time.  Daniel and Henrik Sedin have had solid years, but the Canucks have been fighting injuries throughout the season, important players too.  The health questions of Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler raise some huge red flags for the Canucks.  Meanwhile, the Sharks are healthy and ready to go.  Logan Couture has been a force all year and his elevated play has helped Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski.  Both teams have solid blue lines, but I think the difference will be in net, where the Sharks are hottest right now.  Sharks in 6

#4 St. Louis Blues vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

You would expect the Los Angeles Kings to be the favorites in this series and you would be correct.  The defending Stanley Cup Champions had little roster turnover from last year and going into Tuesday’s game had won eight straight against the Blues.  The Blues have had issues in net all year, with Brian Elliott coming on strong as of late.  The Blues will struggle to score goals, especially with T.J. Oshie coming off an ankle injury.  The Blues blue line is deep, but the Los Angeles Kings forwards are deeper.  The skill from the Kings up front with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown will be enough to overwhelm the Blues.  Kings in 6


#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #7 Detroit Red Wings

This matchup would mark the last time that the Red Wings and Blackhawks would ever play each other before the Stanley Cup Final.  The Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference is bad for this rivalry, but good for the Wings and I would love to see these two play one last time.  I think the Red Wings could matchup well with the Blackhawks, but they need to get Todd Bertuzzi back.  Not only that, but after a long series with Anaheim, they would be mostly out of gas.  The Red Wings have been leaning heavily on Jimmy Howard this year, and unless they start scoring they will be in trouble quickly.  The Blackhawks forwards up front are going to be too much for the Red Wings defensive core, which needs to be completely remade in the offseason.  Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook would lockdown Datsyuk and Zetterberg if no secondary scorers emerge and call this series a day.  Blackhawks in 6

#5 Los Angeles Kings vs. #6 San Jose Sharks

Again, the Kings are the deepest team in the NHL outside of the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins.  The only reason they are a 5 seed is because of their slow start due to a Stanley Cup hangover.  They’ve had ample time to get their stuff together and eventually Antti Niemi will run out of luck/gas.  Jonathan Quick is one of the best goalies in the show and he will be able to put the team on his back again.  The Kings scored 131 goals in 48 games while the Sharks only put up 116 and the scoring depth will be the back breaker here.  Kings in 6

Conference Finals

#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Los Angeles Kings

The Chicago Blackhawks have been the best team in the NHL all year and I don’t see a reason to believe that this won’t continue.  Chicago is one of the few teams that can match the Kings scoring depth (they had 155 goals in 48 games) and the tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery has been the best in the league.  The Kings will run out of gas here, because they can only lean on Quick for so long.  Too often when they can’t score their defense breaks down and he has to bail them out.  Quick faced 889 shots in 37 games this year and eventually he is going to wear down, especially under the relentless attack from the Blackhawks forwards.  It will be a close series though, both teams matchup very well and have very similar make ups.  Blackhawks in 6

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