Here are my first round predictions for the western conference. My eastern conference predictions will come later today. What is interesting about the western conference matchups is that the the home team has won every single game of each of the regular season series except for the final game of the San Jose-Nashville series in which Nashville won the game on the road in a shootout. That might lead you to believe that the home teams should win these series, but I wouldn’t be too eager to jump that that conclusion. For the most part, all the games were close and so should these series.
Calgary at Detroit
|Calgary (road)||Detroit (home)|
|Predicted Winner||Detroit (Good)|
|Last 10 Games||6-4-0||5-1-4|
There are a lot of series that are really difficult to predict this year and this is certainly one of them. Detroit has played pretty consistently good hockey all year while Calgary started off horribly, then played significantly better, and then sputtered a bit down the final stretch of the season losing its last 4 games as well as having a 1-4-1 stretch in March. That said, I have always believed that Calgary has the best combination of offense, defense, goaltending, skill, toughness, experience and depth of any team in the NHL. The key for the Flames in this series might be that toughness as Detroit is generally a soft team and tough, tenacious play can beat them, kind of like what the Oilers did last season. If they play hard physical hockey on guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lang I think they have a chance of shutting down Detroit’s offense. The key for the Red Wings might be their deadline pickup of Todd Bertuzzi (and to a lesser extend Kyle Calder) as he can play that physical game and certainly won’t be intimidated by it. But is he healthy enough to play that style of game against a very physical team for a full 7 games series? I am not sure about that.
My prediction: Flames in 6
Minnesota at Anaheim
|Minnesota (road)||Anaheim (home)|
|Predicted Winner||Anaheim (Some)|
|Last 10 Games||7-2-1||5-3-2|
This is another difficult series to predict as I believe both teams have serious flaws though both teams have also looked extremely dominant at times. For Anaheim they have the stellar 2 defensemen but lack much depth on defense as their 5 and 6 guys, whoever they are, don’t scare anyone. That might cost them more down the road as the grind of the playoffs takes their toll or against a very physical team but whether Minnesota can expose that in the first round is another question. Anaheim also has a lot of youth and inexperience up front in guys like Penner, Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz and others. For Minnesota, their defense is really unspectacular and could be the achilles heel for them. That said, they play great team defense so it will be more difficult for other teams to expose that flaw. The other question mark for Minnesota is whether rookie Niklas Backstrom is ready to handle the pressure in the playoffs. It certianly isn’t un heard of for young goalies to lead their team deep into the playoffs (see Cam Ward last season) but it has to be a bit of a concern not at least having a healthy Manny Fernandez there if needed.
My Prediction Anaheim in 7
Dallas at Vancouver
|Dallas (road)||Vancouver (home)|
|Predicted Winner||Vancouver (Some)|
|Last 10 Games||7-1-2||6-3-1|
Yawn. Sorry, but I have a hard time getting up for this series. If you like offense and goals do not watch this series. In 4 games this year these two teams combined for just 11 goals (not counting the shootout). I don’t see much different now that the playoffs are here. I think the best two offensive players in this series are both named Sedin and both play for Vancouver and I think Vancouver has the better goalie as well so all that is good news for the Canucks. The only thing that I think can save the stars is if Modano gets on fire and becomes a dominant player, something he hasn’t done much of this season. Unfortunately I think he is past his prime and the Canucks will win this series fairly easily by having that slight edge to win the close games.
My Prediction: Vancouver in 5
San Jose at Nashville
|San Jose (road)||Nashville (home)|
|Predicted Winner||Nashville (Some)|
|Last 10 Games||7-1-2||5-3-2|
This is another tough series to predict because while I think Nashville is the better regular season team, I am not convinced they are built to win in the playoffs for some of the same reasons Detroit might struggle. They have a lot of small forwards and defensemen that I think can be exposed, especially by a team like the Sharks which has size up front. It worked for San Jose when they bounced the Predators out of the playoffs in the first round last year and it could certainly happen again. Nashville has tried to address the size issue by adding Arnott and Vishnevski but is that enough? Another key for Nashville will be the health of Peter Forsberg and whether he can be a leader for the team both on the ice, on the scoreboard, and in the dressing room. If he can, then the Predtors have a chance to beat anyone but that is a huge if based on what he has done in the regular season for both the Flyers and Nashville. For the Sharks, I question their experience on defense as they will depend a lot on rookies Vlasic and Carle and you just never know how they will react to the pressure of playoff hockey. In the end I think the Sharks size will over power the Predators.
My Prediction: San Jose in 7