Yesterday, I gave you my picks for the first-round NHL Playoffs in the Eastern conference, so let’s finish off the first handful of games for hockey’s second season today and outline my predictions for the teams coming out of the West.
Many analysts have said that the Western Conference is much more competitive and I’d have to agree. I remember a few months back when the difference between being first and last in the Northwest Division was a single point. That’s pretty evenly matched, and as such, coming to any sort of conclusion for these first round NHL matchups is pretty tough.
Detroit Red Wings (1) vs. Calgary Flames (8)
As a Vancouverite, I automatically have a dislike for Calgary and the Flames. At the same time, I don’t exactly like the crew in Hockeytown, USA either. I personally don’t want to see either one of these teams succeed in the playoffs, but I’ve got to pick a winner. If Kristian Huselius, Daymond Langkow, and Jarome Iginla can step up their games and if Mikka Kiprusoff can transform into an impenetrable fortress, then the Flames have a chance. But I still think the Wings will win, despite Hasek being a billion years old. It’ll be interesting to see how Pavel Datsyuk performs with that hefty seven-year contract under his belt.
Red Wings in six
Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (7)
Gigeure isn’t quite as electric as has been in the past, but when you have Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer out in front of you, and guys like Teemu Selanne beyond them to get the puck in the other net, you’ve got yourself an excellent shot at winning. Although the Ducks are number two in the conference, they have been overlooked by some people. Not me. I think the Ducks have an excellent chance at hoisting the Cup. I’m going to go out on a limb and call the series sweep.
Ducks in four
Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. Dallas Stars (6)
I was very happy to see the Canucks clinch the division title and I was even happier when it was confirmed that they would play the Stars in the first round and not the Sharks. Yes, there are no “weak” teams entering the playoffs in the West, but the Stars are nowhere near as good as they used to be. I hope that Luongo performs well — it’s the first playoff run of his career — because post-season goaltending has always been an issue with the Canucks. But at least they have a shot this year, unlike last year.
Canucks in six
Nashville Predators (4) vs. San Jose Sharks (5)
The Predators may have home ice advantage, but I think that the Sharks are the better team. What’s more, I think the Sharks might even make it to the final. Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Patrick Marleau are electric when they’re on. Even guys like Matt Carle can “bring it.” As such, I predict the San Jose Sharks will outskate, outscore, and outplay the Preds in what could be the most evenly matched series this year. The trouble is that the Sharks have never done well in the playoffs, so even if they get past the Predators, they may not make it beyond the second round.
Sharks in six
As I read through all my picks for the first round, I’m a little upset with myself that I only picked one underdog (the Sharks). Oh well.