Western Conference Predictions

 Written by Andy Dunk

 Jackman Sports NHL Writer

Western Conference Predictions

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks

            At the beginning of the year many would have thought this to be a potential conference finals showdown. But after an up and down year with the Hawks sneaking into the playoffs, this unlikely match up was set up. The Blackhawks are a scary eight seed who should be reckoned with. With a healthy team and valuable playoff experience, the Blackhawks have a chance to make a deep playoff run as a low seed similar to the runs that the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers made. However, this year I think that the third time will be the charm for the Canucks. After losing to the Blackhawks the last two years in the playoffs, I think that the Canucks led by Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) candidate Daniel Sedin who tallied 104 points this year. With his twin brother Henrik by his side, the Canucks have a formidable scoring punch which led to the team’s league leading goal total and power play percentage. In goal, Roberto Luongo and the Canucks also led the league in goals against. While the Blackhawks are certainly a team that the Canucks looked to avoid, they should have enough to win. Canucks in 6

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings

            This series is one series in the Western Conference that I should be confident in, but I am not. The Sharks are notorious for having playoff struggles after putting up tremendous regular season numbers. This year the trend has the chance to continue. On offense the Sharks possess veteran leadership in the form of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Dan Heatly. At the back, the Sharks took a step back losing Nabakov to the Russian league and replacing him with ex-Blackhawk, Anti Niemi. While Niemi did not have an outstanding regular season, we all know what he can do in the post-season. If the Kings are to pull the upset, they will need a big series out of their top scorer Anze Kopitar and their goaltender Jonathan Quick. That said, I like the Sharks in 6.

#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes

            The Red Wings put up another stellar year and “Hockeytown” finds themselves with another potential contender. The Wings are led on defense by two Swedes, the ageless Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall. On attack, the Wings have a three-pronged attack led by Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, (two more Swedes) and Pavel Datsyuk. The Coyotes are a young team led by a few seasoned veterans. Shane Doan is the most notable offensive player but this team is led by their stellar goalie, Illya Bryzgalov. While solid goaltending can lead a team to the promised land, I think that this series will be too much Wings. Red Wings in 6

#4 Aneheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators

            They may not be the Mighty Ducks anymore but that is a great word to describe their attack. The Ducks were led by Corey Perry who tallied 50 goals and 48 assists in a break out year establishing himself as one of the NHL’s elite. Complementing him on the attack is fellow forward, Ryan Getzlaf. With the resurgence of ex-Flame Ray Emery, the Ducks have the potential to make a run. Standing in their path is the Predators who are a scrappy defensive team that gives opponents fits. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are studs at the back and could give Perry and Getzlaf nightmares as they did to the Blackhawks last season. The Blackhawks were able to overcome the Predators unique style. I do not think that the Ducks will be able too. Martin Erat will score just enough to push the Predators through. Predators in 7
Andy Dunk

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