Well it’s the most wonderful time of the year once more!!! That’s right the NHL playoffs are starting up once more! It’s hard not to get in the spirit of excitement especially after thinking that we may not see playoff hockey until 2014. So of course it means one things: baseless predictions! Myself, my hetero-life-mate Troy, and a 2002 Two Dollar Canadian coin I found in a pile will be making predictions for the playoffs. In addition to providing fool-proof (and most certainly wrong) predictions for each series we’ll also provide a simple tag-line to help you remember this series among all the others and a primer for the refrain that you’ll be hearing about this series going forward.
In this post we’re going to look at the left half of the continent as we preview the Western Conference. This year everyone seems to be counting on the Chicago Blackhawks who dominated the regular season, but there are still last years surprise champion Kings waiting in the wings, and let’s not forget rising teams in the Ducks, Wild, and Blues. Of course the Sharks, Cancuks, and Red Wings aren’t dead yet, and could still put up a hell of a fight. The Western Conference has traditionally been very unpredictable, so expect the unexpected…which I guess means that the expected will be unexpected, which you should have been expecting all along!
…alright I gave myself a headache there, let’s get to it.
#1 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS vs. #8 MINNESOTA WILD
The Midwest Massacre
Glen Says: This will be an absolute curb-stomping. The Blackhawks have been the best team in the league from the opening puck drop. They went half the season without losing in regulation and have been in control of the President’s Trophy since then. The Wild struggled a bit at the start of the season, peaked in the middle, then struggled to close down the stretch, which made them finish in the dreaded 8th seed. Even if the top talent on the Wild play to their potential, they just can’t match the depth of the Hawks. This series should be quick and painful for the state of Minnesota. However, once the Wild’s young talent like Brodin and Granlund actualize in the next few years this could be one of the league’s next great rivalries. But next doesn’t mean today.
Blackhawks in 4
Troy Says: Let’s see….a team that went a billion games in a row without losing a game in regulation versus a team that barely beat the crappiest team in the league on the last day of the season to barely sneak into the playoffs. I don’t think there’s much to talk about with this one folks. This series should basically just be a warm up for the Hawks. Serves Minny right too because they eliminated Columbus who has a goalie with easily the coolest last name ever….Bobrovsky.
For poops and giggles I’ll say the Wild win one game.
Hawks in 5.
Coin Says: Hawks in 5
Expect to Hear: ”Just a reminder, despite not playing in several weeks the Blackhawks are still in the playoffs…”
#2 ANAHEIM DUCKS vs. #7 DETROIT RED WINGS
The Reason for Realignment
Glen Says: The Red Wings must be so thrilled that they not only avoided Chicago in the first round, but also avoided Vancouver, LA, and really any other elite team in the West. The Ducks had a very good regular season but are clearly punching above their weight class with the second seed. Even though they clearly miss the greatest defenseman of the generation they still have some weapons to through out. Expect to see Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry wearing red sweaters that vaguely resemble Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. This will be the Wings last playoff run in the Western Conference and I don’t expect it to end all that quickly. Plus we really need one more Detroit-Chicago series for old times sake
Red Wings in 6
Troy Says: How weird was it coming down the stretch and actually thinking that there was a chance Detroit might not make the playoffs? It’s just a given that they’ll be in. In the end it took a gritty effort from the Wings to pull it together and even still it was Zetterberg who put this team in his back and got the job done. There is no shortage of pure talent on this team but the same can be said of Anaheim. Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan. These guys are good. I’m really not sure which way to go with this series. Even though it’s a 2 vs 7 series it really doesn’t feel like it. Especially after Detroit picked up their socks at the end of the season and really started to play well. My gut though is telling me Anaheim is coming out of this series.
Expect to Hear: “Ten years ago the 7th seed Ducks swept the 2nd seed Red Wings and somehow that’s still relevant”
#3 VANCOUVER CANUCKS vs. #6 SAN JOSE SHARKS
Slackers of the World Unite!
Glen Says: This series has all kinds of intrigue as we see the two teams that have been unfairly cast as underachievers for the better part of the past decade. Of course back-to-back Conference final appearances by the Leafs in the 90s was considered a dynasty and fifteen playoff wins for the Oilers and Flames was considered spectacular, but I digress. These two teams both have the world to prove and both coaches are most certainly playing for their jobs here. As with all things Canucks, goaltending is the most interesting facet and should be fascinating to watch playout in this series. Of course Schneider is hurt and Luongo was hung out to dry in the last game of the season. Expect it to be a massive distraction, still though the Canucks have really found their game of late and appear to be healthy and rolling and should win a very close series.
Canucks in 7
Troy Says: This is another tough series to call. Vancouver is not the same team that made it to the cup final in 2012 but San Jose traded two of their toughest players this year at the deadline in Clowe and Murray. They’re going to miss those guys when the puck drops in the playoffs. Although a lot is still expected of the Canucks the expectations are nowhere near as high as in the years leading up to their run in 2011 and I actually think that could benefit them here. It may allow them to play more of their game. If they get the kind of goaltending they need from either Schneider or Luongo then they’ll be a serious threat.
Expect to Hear: ”We lost 2-1, it’s clearly Luongo’s fault!”
#4 ST. LOUIS BLUES vs. #5 LOS ANGELES KINGS
Seriously, They Played Last Year…We Promise
Glen Says: I put this as one of the five most intriguing potential series the other day and I stand by it. These teams match up very well against one another. They both have incredible defensemen, a lot of depth up front, options in net, and great coaches that love a defense-first game. In short, these two teams are both made for the playoffs. In my opinion the winner of this will make it out of the Western Conference much to the shock of the Chicago Blackhawks. Since 2003, the Stanley Cup Champions have had a series record of 4-7 with three of those series wins coming from the 2009 Detroit Red Wings, so let’s go with that easy narrative here.
Blues in 7
Troy Says: Hard to count out the defending champs. They’ve already proven they can handle the pressure and that they have what it takes. St. Louis is a team that has been on the rise for a number of years and they’re finally starting to see the fruits of their labour in a strong way. Add into the mix the skills of Jay Bouwmeester who will finally never have to answer questions about never having been in the playoffs and the Blues are a team on the verge of making some noise. As much of a cliché as it is, this series is probably going to come down to goaltending. Last year the Kings shelled Elliot in their series against the Blues but on the other hand there has been a significant drop off in Jonathan Quick’s play as compared to last year so it’s a tough call. Interesting to note that these teams have met three times in the playoffs and each time it’s been a sweep. I’m going to go with my gut again and take LA.
Coin Says: Blues in 4
Expect to Hear: ”Who will be the this years version of last years Kings? This years Blues or this years Kings?”
#1 Chicago Blackhawks over Detroit Red Wings in 5
#4 St. Louis Blues over #3 Vancouver Canucks in 6
#4 St. Louis Blues over #1 Chicago Blackhawks in 6
#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #5 Los Angeles Kings in 6
#2 Anaheim Ducks over #3 Vancouver Canucks in 7
#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #2 Anaheim Ducks in 5
#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #6 San Jose Sharks in 6
#4 St. Louis Blues over #2 Anaheim Ducks in 6
#1 Chicago Blackhawks over #4 St. Louis Blues in 7 (with a 3-0 comeback no less!)
…Troy clearly copied the coin on this one!