Western Conference Round #1:
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
WINNER: CHICAGO IN 7
This was a pretty hard decision to make but ultimately, Chicago has the upper hand. Their core of Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Crawford is enough to have most opponents shaking in their boots. In their season series, the Blackhawks took 4 out of the 5 games from the Predators. They have more experience, and are a more well-rounded, complete team.
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues
WINNER: ST. LOUIS IN 6
This was one of the easiest picks in the entire first round. Minnesota has been ice-cold for over a month and Devan Dubnyk is starting to look human again. St. Louis went 6-2 in their last 8 games of the season and Minnesota went 5-3.
Bruce Boudreau also doesn’t exactly have the reputation of a calm, collected guy. If anything starts going downhill for Minnesota during the playoffs, Boudreau will lose his mind.
St. Louis also has the advantage in specialty teams. Both their penalty and powerplay are better than Minnesota’s. For these reasons, I believe that St. Louis will win this round.
Anaheim vs. Calgary
WINNER: ANAHEIM IN 6
Calgary has been on fire recently, but ultimately, Anaheim will get this round. Anaheim is nearing the end of their current core of Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler and now is their time to win. Calgary is on the rise with younf and fast talent, but they will eventually get put in their place by a big, strong, and sturdy defence and offence. Jonathan Bernier is playing some of the best hockey of his career, with a .915 SV% on the season versus Brian Elliot’s .910 SV%.
In the end, Anaheim’s strong and experienced team will beat Calgary’s fast and young team.
Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks
WINNER: EDMONTON OILERS IN 6
Connor McDavid is on his way to being the best player on the planet. And generational stars have the tendency to carry a team pretty far. The Oilers are young and fast whereas the Sharks are “grizzled”. Their Stanley Cup run last season also shortened their offseason so I would expect that they are running on fumes right now. With Connor McDavid on the ice, you need to be at your A-game and without a 100% healthy Joe Thorton and Logan Couture, you’re in for the fight of your life-time.
The Oilers have one of the best powerplay’s in the league with 22.85% while the Sharks are lurking deep in the waters with a 16.66%. They also have the edge in their season series where they took 3 out 5 from San Jose.
The Sharks are getting old and their shortened off season from the playoff run and the World Cup makes them susceptible to a lightning fast Oilers team.