Western Conference Playoff Predictions

Copper and Blue did the Pythagorean Expectations for this one already. They show that the Sharks, Hawks and Preds performed very well against playoff teams this year while ones that struggled were the Ducks, Kings and Coyotes. Also showed that the Canucks struggled a bit against playoff teams, which is interesting. Let’s do a quick look at each series.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Much like the last team the Caps wanted to face were the Rangers, I’m sure the Blackhawks were at the bottom of the list of teams that Vancouver wanted to play in the first round. Both teams seem to match up evenly with each other in a lot of departments. They both have similar corsi and fenwick percentages but Vancouver’s top 3 forwards have grossly outperformed Chicago’s (though that partially has to do with VAN giving the Sedins a ton of offensive zone starts while Chicago gives Toews a lot in his own zone). Chicago has a lot of secondary scoring in Troy Brouwer and Bryan Bickell so that shouldn’t be a concern but Vancouver’s D is vastly improved from last season. They didn’t have a big shutdown guy healthy last year and now they have Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhus, who I think will make a big difference. Kevin Bieksa has improved vastly this year, too.

I think what it comes down to is Vancouver’s top players showing up. The Sedins, Kesler and Luongo were all terrible against the Hawks in their last two playoff series and Vancouver needs them to perform if they want to get past them. The most glaring advantage the Canucks have over Chicago is their goaltending and depth in general. It’s going to be tough but I’ll say the Canucks get over the hump and take this series. Canucks in 7

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Poor LA, I really thought they would make a run in the playoffs this year and it looked like that until Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams both went down at around the same time. It’s hard for me to think that the Kings have enough up front to out-score the Sharks potent offense unless someone gets hot and fast. Sure, they have good players like Dustin Brown and Ryan Smyth but is that enough to match what San Jose has?

I think the reputation the Sharks have has “choke artists” could be dispelled after last season since they made it to the conference finals and lost to a superior Hawks team. This time, it seems that they have more than enough to do that again. Marleau, Thornton and Heatley aren’t being solely riled upon for their scoring with how good Clowe, Couture and Pavelski have been this season and that will play a big factor. Yes, the Kings defense is good and Quick isn’t a bad goalie but I think the Sharks just have too much for LA to handle. Sharks in 5

Detroit Red Wings vs. Phoenix Coytoes

As much as I like Phoenix, it’s hard for me to say that they match up well with the Wings here. Hell, any team who is relying on Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt for their goal-scoring is going to be suspect. Phoenix rode Ilya Bryzgalov and a few high shooting percentages to get into the playoffs despite poor special teams and no huge scoring threat outside of Shane Doan and that doesn’t make me confident about their chances. Especially since their defense surrenders tons of shots nightly.

Outside of goaltending, Phoenix doesn’t really have any favorable matchups here. Yes, Hanzal and Belanger are two-way centers but Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Keith Yandle and Michal Rozsival have been very good for the Yotes but how are they going to fare up against Detroit’s top lines if they are even assigned them? I’m also not confident with how Doan, Belanger and Whitney will play against Lidstrom and Stuart. Phoenix’s lower lines might have some similar luck against the Wings lower pairings but I don’t think it will be enough for the Yotes to win. Bryzgalov needs to be a wall and Howard needs to be a sieve, basically. Red Wings in 5

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators

Series I’m most excited for because it can go either way. You have the Ducks with their lethal first line and powerplay against a Preds team with strong defense and one of the best goalies in the league. It’s worth noting that while the Ducks top two lines have been fantastic, the rest of their team isn’t impressive at all so if Getzlaf, Selanne and Perry all go into a funk, then there’s going to be serious trouble for the Ducks. It doesn’t look like it with the way they’ve been playing lately, though and it helps that the Ducks defense corps is playing great too, especially Visnovsky.

The Preds have yet to win a playoff series and a lot of people seem to think that trend will continue. However, there’s a chance they can beat the Ducks here but it will take a strong effort from Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne for that to happen. Then there’s the issue of the Preds lack of offense.  The fact that Sergei Kostitsyn is their leading goal scorer is enough of a problem but the Preds do a lot of scoring by committee and that will probably continue in the playoffs. The Preds fenwick and corsi numbers at even strength are a lot more impressive than the Ducks but Anaheim’s getting lucky at the right time, hence why they pulled off this impressive run at the end of the season.

The keys to victory for the Preds here are staying out of the box, shutting down the Ducks top line and having Rinne being a brick wall. None of those will be easy but it’s possible so I’m going to take Nashville in an upset. Jonas Hiller not playing for the Ducks will also help them out even if Dan Ellis has been adequate. Predators in 6

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One Response to Western Conference Playoff Predictions

  1. Chris Ross says:

    Whoa Canucks in 7, I think 5 or 6 and lean more towards the 5.

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