The theme of the Western Conference playoffs is all about one thing: who can beat the Vancouver Canucks? Find out who we are predicting to advance to the second round of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The NHL matchups for this years Stanley Cup playoffs have just been scheduled, and it looks as if things in the west could get complicated. Lets take a look at the first round matchups for the Western Conference and decide which pairings hold the best NHL betting values, and which series might be a lot tighter than the NHL odds makers would have you believe.
Here is a quick look at each of the matchups and our NHL picks for the series result.
Check out our picks for the NHL Eastern Conference
Western Conference Breakdown
St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings faded down the home stretch, the Pacific
Division crew of the Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings all
to be pretenders, the Chicago Blackhawks still have serious issues in net and
the Nashville Predators appear to still be a brick short of a load.
who can stop the Vancouver Canucks from returning to the Stanley Cup finals? The answer to
that question is probably just Vancouver themselves. There’s always the
possibility that Roberto Luongo implodes again in the playoffs but they seem to
be more prepared with Cory Schneider ready to go.
the Canucks can be dropped, than the West is wide open. Otherwise, it’s theirs
to lose. Here’s a look at the first-round playoff matchups along with
No. 8 Los
Angeles Kings vs. No. 1 Vancouver Canucks
the Los Angeles Kings, this is a nightmare matchup. They’ve underachieved all
season long and after back-to-back losses to the San Jose Sharks at the end of
the season, they went from a third seed with home-ice advantage to an
eight-seed facing the best team in the NHL.
Canucks don’t struggle against teams like this. The Kings are low scoring and
their lack of offense is going to limit their advantage in net. That basically
means that since they don’t score enough, they’re going to make Roberto Luongo
look pretty good. He’s allowed just 15 goals in the last eight meetings and
simply put, the Kings won’t win this series scoring one or two goals per game.
just has way more depth, experience and talent than the Kings. Jonathan Quick
may be a Vezina Trophy candidate, but we’ve seen what Vancouver does to low
scoring, goaltender/defense-oriented teams in the playoffs (see: Nashville last
Canucks enter the playoffs winners in eight of their last nine games. The Kings
have lost three of four and five of eight to blow their home-ice advantage.
Good luck to them.
Pick: Canucks in
No. 7 San Jose
Sharks vs. No. 2 St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks did themselves a big favor by winning their season-ending
home-and-home series with the Los Angeles Kings. It means that they know face
an inexperienced, slumping, surprise team in the St. Louis Blues instead of the
red hot Canucks.
Blues did get a win in their final game of the year but they still lost four of
five and eight of 12 heading into the playoffs.
Jose is a question mark because of how much they’ve underachieved this year but
given their huge edge in experience, they’re capable of springing the upset.
will probably happen, though, is that the Blues will protect their home ice
quite well in this series and beat the Sharks like a drum just as they did in
the regular season. The Blues swept the season series, outscoring the Sharks
11-3 in the four contests.
hard to overlook that the Sharks were just 17-24 on the road this season while
the Blues were 30-6-5 at home, which is the best home record in the NHL.
Pick: Blues in Six
No. 6 Chicago
Blackhawks vs. No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes
Chicago Blackhawks have a great shot to spring a first-round “upset” because
the team they’re facing – the Phoenix Coyotes – actually finished with four
points less than their 101. The bigger win for the Blackhawks is that their
first-round opponent doesn’t play particularly well at home, which means the
Blackhawks could steal home-ice advantage rather easily.
Coyotes 22 home wins ties them for the fewest of any team in the Western
Conference. The Blackhawks were just 18-23 on the road this year but Phoenix
can’t be expected to exactly dominate this series when they’re at home, so the
scales do tip in Chicago’s favor.
key to this series is Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. He’s playing out of his
mind right now, winning five straight heading into the playoffs. That includes
three shutouts and he’s actually allowed just two goals in those five contests.
The Blackhawks are significantly worse in net but significantly better in
virtually every other realm, so the Coyotes will need Smith to be the
allowed just four goals in three matchups with the Blackhawks this season and
has given up just six in five career outings. He’s 4-1-0 against them with a
1.32 GAA and .956 save percentage.
so, the Blackhawks have the edge in experience and played pretty well down the
stretch, going 11-2-4 to end the season. Take the Blackhawks to outlast the
Coyotes in this one.
No. 5 Detroit
Red Wings vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators
would like to have faith in the Detroit Red Wings but at this point, I wonder
if they even have faith in themselves.
They’ve been a sinking ship since the end of February and they went from
being a Presidents’ Trophy contender to a team that barely hung on to the fifth
seed in the West.
was 41-17-2 on February 19th but won only seven of their final 22
games. They’ve won just four of their last 14 games.
bigger red flag is that they’re not even playing well at home. The Red Wings,
who were once untouchable at Joe Louis Arena this season, have lost three of
their last four at home.
got out of the first round of the playoffs last year and nobody can say they’re
short on experience now. They’ve still got plenty to prove and they better not
assume anything in this series, but the fact that they finished with the
fifth-most points in the NHL indicates that they’re for real. They won six of
eight to end the year, which includes a 4-1 win in Detroit, so they’re not
going to be intimidated.
put anything past Detroit but with them in decline and Nashville playing well,
the Predators get the slight lean here.
Pick: Predators in Six