NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

s100516_shark-tankpg-horizontal

The Western Conference NHL Playoffs is set to begin Wednesday and Fake Pigskin has you covered. The Western Conference is deep and full of extremely talented teams. The Western have 4 legit title contenders and 4 more teams that are going to be tough outs.

Legit Title Contenders

(all odds per vegasinsider.com)

St Louis Blues (6/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The St Louis Blues have the most complete team in the Western Conference.  They significantly improved an already talented team at the deadline. Not only did the Blues acquire Steve Ott a talented center that helps improve the Blues scoring lines but Ryan Miller who is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. Ryan Miller was stuck on a underwhelming Buffalo Sabres team. He has the ability to be the best player in the playoffs and carry the Blues to a Stanley Cup.

Key for a deep run

The St Louis Blues are team that seems to have all the pieces. The biggest key for the Blues is to avoid a slow start in round one of the NHL playoffs. They will meet a very talented Blackhawks team who have been there and done that. If the Blues are not ready to go from puck drop, this could be an early exit for St Louis.

Chicago Blackhawks (6/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The Chicago Blackhawks are dynamic team that has won two of the last three Stanley Cups. That said the mileage on the Hawks over the past three seasons including last season fast paced lockout shortened season as well as their Olympic schedule seems to have taken a toll. After resting the faces of the franchise in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for the last week or so of the regular season in hopes they get their legs back, the Blackhawks need their stars ready to go in game 1.

Key for a deep run

Much like the Blackhawks other Cup runs, goaltending will be pivotal. Corey Crawford has shown the ability to be a lights out goaltender that can be relied on by his team but he has also shown an ability to let questionable goals in, especially glove side. Crawford must play well for the Blackhawks to win the Cup.

San Jose Sharks (8/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The Sharks are a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference. They always pose a challenge in the division but have yet to be able to get over the final hurdle and make a Stanley Cup final appearance. This Sharks team is one of the deepest teams they have had especially with the return of rookie phenom Tomas Hertl. Joe Pavelski has had his best season to date and his play will be important for the Sharks in the playoffs.

Key for a deep run

The Sharks blue line will be very important for a a deep playoff run. They must support goaltender Antti Niemi, who has the ability to help his team win a cup. Niemi was on the 2011 Blackhawks Stanley Cup champions. Dan Boyle and Marc Edouard Vlassic will also be counted on to help with the goal scoring especially on the power play.

Los Angeles Kings (12/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The Los Angeles Kings are in a familiar situation this year as 2012 when they won their last cup. Like 2012 the Kings enter the playoffs as a low seed but this team is talented and have Jonathan Quick in net who may be the league’s best goaltender

Key for a deep run

Jonathan Quick is an elite goal tender and can almost single handily carry the Kings on a deep playoff run. His ability to stand on his head and be exceptional will be important for the Kings. If Quick struggles especially in round one, the Kings could see and early exit.

In the Mix

Anaheim Ducks (7/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The Anaheim Ducks had the best record in the Western Conference and yet they seem to enter the playoffs with more questions than a typical number one seed. The biggest question for Anaheim is what their goal tending situation will look like. Jonas Hiller is the veteran but wont start game 1. Rookie Frederik Andersen will get the game 1 start. Fellow rookie John Gibson is also in the mix and will likely be the long term answer for the Ducks future success. If Gibson gets a shot in goal, he may not let it go.

Key to a deep run

Stability in net will be key for the Ducks. Whether its Gibson, Andersen, or Hiller, the Ducks must find a goal tender and stick with him. Quality goal tending is crucial come playoff time. If the Ducks struggle in net, they could see an early exit in the playoffs.

Colorado Avalanche (6/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

Patrick Roy has done a phenomenal job coaching this team. The Avalanche are loaded with young and extremely talented players.

Key for a deep run

The Avalanche must not let their youth be the reason for an early exit. The Avalanche are talented enough to make the run at a Stanley Cup. Semyon Varlomov and Jean Sebastian-Giguere will be relied on heavily to stabilize the young Avalanche.

 

Wild Card

Minnesota Wild (50/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The Minnesota Wild are a team that seems to have some the pieces to be a good team including Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They have not been able to get consistency on a night to night basis. A quick exit by Minnesota could lead to changes this off season.

Key to a deep cup run

The Wild have had some what of a revolving door in net all season. Specifically Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding who have been solid when active but have been fighting nagging injuries. Harding is still hurt and thus the Wild picked up Ilya Bryzgalov, who has playoff experience from his time in Philadelphia.

 

Here for the parting gifts

Dallas Stars (50/1 to win the Stanley Cup)

The Dallas Stars are a nice story. They secured their playoff spot late in the season. Tyler Seguin seems to finding his place amongst the league’s stars. Seguin made his name with the Boston Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Seguin and line mate Jamie Benn found a strong connection and seem to feed off of one another.

Key to a deep playoff run

The Stars will need Tyler Seguin to be the superstar he has been touted as since coming up with the Bruins. If Seguin can become a bonafide star, which has happened before with other player the Stars may just win a round and perhaps more.

First round series

(series prices per Sports Interaction)

Anaheim Ducks (-333) v Dallas Stars (+220)

The Ducks should win this series pretty easily. They will need to figure out who their goalie will be going forward. The Ducks have the superior talent and based upon the odds not many believe the Stars can win this series. The one thing that could change that is if the Ducks struggle in net, swap goalie and are unable to find consistency. The Stars have talented goal scorers and Kari Lehtonen and Tim Thomas are veteran goal tenders who have the ability to control a series between the pipes.

Prediction: Ducks in 5

 

Colorado Avalanche (-175) v Minnesota Wild (+125)

This series should provide a preview of the NHL’s future. The Avalanche are a young fast paced team that likes to move the puck to its forwards quickly. They will need to do so in order to keep the puck away from talented goal scores like Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Dany Heatly. The Wild will need to rely on quality goal tending to escape this series with a win.

Prediction; Avalanche in 6

 

San Jose Sharks (-167) v Los Angles Kings (+120)

This match up features two teams that know each other all too well. The Kings and Sharks seemingly meet every season in the playoffs and 2014 is no different. The Sharks will need to put guys in front of goalie Jonathan Quick and maintain a net front presence. Quick is an elite goalie that has given the Sharks trouble in the past. As for the Kings they need to get to Antti Niemi early and often. If the Kings can rattle his cage early they should be able to score enough goals to win this series. The Sharks are a deeper more complete team that is ready to make a serious run.

Prediction: Sharks in 6

 

St Louis Blues (-141) v Chicago Blackhawks (+100)

This series should be the most competitive and is a legit western conference final level rivalry. The play should be at an elite level with extremely talented goal scorers, dominant goalies and coaches ready to make the right call at the right time. I expect this series to not only go seven games but to feature many close games and likely an overtime affair or two. This series will come down to whether the mileage will be too much for Chicago or if the moves the Blues made will be enough to put them over the edge. I expect Ryan Miller to be the best goal tender in the playoffs.

Prediction: Blues in 7

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>