Well, playoff time is here. All the matchups have been set, and things get underway this Wednesday, but what do we expect from them?
So, lets get to it. Here is the Western Conference Playoff Preview and predictions.
Chicago vs Nashville (Begins Thursday Night @ Chicago)
These two Central Division opponents met 5 times this season, with the Hawks winning 4 of those games. So as far as regular season hockey goes, the Blackhawks definitely have the upper hand. As for playoffs, Chicago has the experience, and the skill to do so. They finished tops in the Western Conference with 109 points, while the Predators found themselves in the second wildcard spot with 94 points. Nashville is a good team as well, don’t get me wrong. They have some incredible scoring talent, good defence, and a goalie named Rinne. The series itself will probably be rather close, as they’re both tight checking teams with decent goaltending. However, I do think Chicago has the edge, but I’m not necessarily counting Nashville out of it.
My Pick: Chicago wins in 6 games
Minnesota vs St Louis (Begins Wednesday Night @ Minnesota)
Looking at this matchup, I see a lot of exciting hockey to be played. They’ve played once before in the postseason, with Minnesota prevailing. During the 2016/17 regular season series, the Blues won 3 out of the 5 games played, and come into the postseason playing some great hockey. Minnesota is starting to rebound after a dismal stretch in mid March, where they lost 5 in a row. With a slumping Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota may find themselves at a disadvantage in the series. Dubnyk (40-19-5, .923 PCT, 2.25 GAA) has seen his stats decline month by month, but hopes to see it remain, or rise during their first round matchup. It will most certainly be an interesting series, and I’m personally curious to see how this one swings.
My Pick: St. Louis wins in 7 games
Anaheim vs Calgary (Begins Thursday Night @ Anaheim)
This is one of the most exciting matchups, mostly due to the hate that has been brewing between the two teams. Following Mark Giordano’s Knee on Knee hit that took out Cam Fowler for around 6 weeks, words have been flying around between GM’s regarding the play, with Anaheim GM Bob Murphy referring to Giordano’s game as “dirty”. With all this hostility, I believe that Calgary could feed off of it. The Flames come into the series having only 1 game of the 5 played, and have extended their streak to 13 years without a win in Anaheim. As we all know, however, the playoffs can completely go against every stat and previous notion we have about this kind of thing.
My Pick: Calgary wins in 7
Edmonton vs San Jose (Begins Wednesday Night @ Edmonton)
In what could be the most intriguing matchup in the West, the Oilers and Sharks are most definitely going to bring us some classic hockey. One team is a defending Western Conference Champ, and the other hasn’t see playoff hockey in 11 years. This is the first time the Edmonton Oilers will play in a Stanley Cup Playoff game since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. Led by Captain Connor McDavid, the Oilers clinched home ice in the playoffs, a 3-1-1 record against the Sharks this year, and will play in front of a capacity crowd at Rogers Place. The Sharks, on the other hand, are coming into this series with a rather respectable season, and return to the playoffs for yet another year. With Joe Thornton and Logan Couture looking to return from injury by Wednesday, the Sharks will have their core present, and ready to play a fantastic series.
My Pick: Edmonton wins in 7
Yeah, I picked three series to go 7 games. So what? The teams are competitive as ever, and you can never count a team out. Wednesday can’t come quick enough, as we await the start of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.