Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 1 (West) Predictions

 stanleycup2009-west (1st Round Predictions)

As a continuation of yesterday’s playoff predictions, here I’ll jot down some thoughts and theories regarding the Western Conference round one Stanley Cup Playoff match-ups.  To see the first post with Eastern Conference predictions, Click Here.

(1) San Jose Sharks vs. (8) Anaheim Ducks
Prediction: Anaheim 4-2

As much as everyone is hyping the Sharks up to be a huge Stanley Cup contender, I’ve thought for some number of weeks that Anaheim is as dangerous as any team in the western conference.  I think the Sharks will have more trouble with their match-up against the 8th seed than any of the other western teams with home ice advantage will have with their match-ups.

Anaheim has a large amount of players left over from when they won the Stanley Cup two years ago, and has found rejuvenation at the goaltending position in Jonas Hiller (pictured above).  The Ducks will enter the playoffs with a Conn Smyth winner on their bench as a backup goalie (something no other team can boast). 

The Ducks (similar to the Flyers in my Eastern Conference Predictions) are an extremely gritty, hard-hitting team with big, physical forwards and defenders.  I think that the Sharks will find winning this series an uphill battle from the get-go, especially since all the pressure is on them to win (as they were the President’s Trophy winner of the NHL).

I expect the Ducks to pitch a huge upset here, and Detroit should count themselves lucky that the Ducks didn’t steal 7th place, because had they done so, I’d predict an upset in Detroit rather than San Jose.  The Ducks are just that good… and just that hot right now.

(2) Detroit Red Wings vs. (7) Columbus Blue Jackets
Prediction: Detroit 4-1

Congratulations go out to the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans for making the playoffs for the first time in their franchise’s history.  Sadly, I really think their playoff experience will be short lived. 

Columbus as a team (and the vast majority of their players) have absolutely zero playoff experience, and they face off against one of the more veteran, more experienced teams in the league.  Detroit is also the team that won it all last year with the exact same roster that they have this season plus Marian Hossa (pictured right). 

Detroit is not the team that Columbus wanted to face in the first round, and a lot of the reason that they are facing them is because of over-hyped rookie goalie Steve Mason’s play down the stretch of the regular season. 

The last month of the regular season, Mason struggled mightily as other teams started to figure out his weaknesses.  Mason’s diminished play down the stretch (in my opinion) is the reason why Columbus faces a daunting first round match-up against one of the perennial powerhouses in the league. 

Unless Mason can figure out a way to fix the holes in his game that developed down the stretch of the regular season, this series will be over really quick.  Giving Columbus one win in this series may end up being a bit generous in hind sight.

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) St. Louis Blues
Prediction: Vancouver 4-2

What a feel-good story the St. Louis Blues have been this season.  Similar to the Washington Capitals of 2007-08, they went from being at the bottom of their Conference to forcing their way into the playoffs in remarkable fashion. 

They have had one of the better powerplays in the league this year, and their recently anointed starting goaltender: Chris Mason, has been outstanding since taking over full time.

I think that when it comes time to judge this series between the Canucks and Blues, that the Blues will fall a bit short, however.  The Blues may find that their magic and good luck has just run dry when they face one of the best goalies in the league in Roberto Luongo (pictured above). 

The Blues also rely very heavily on young players: Oshie, Backes, Perron, and Berglund… none of whom have any experience in the level of intensity that is seen in NHL playoff hockey. 

I think the Blues will be back here again next year (and better for it), but I think they are a candidate for a good young team that sees a first round exit (much like Washington last season, and Pittsburgh in 2006-07).

(4) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Calgary Flames
Prediction: Chicago 4-3

The Calgary Flames were outplayed by divisional rival Vancouver in the closing weeks of the season, and saw their playoff seed slip from 3rd, to 5th.  They also find themselves in a much more difficult match-upwith a great Chicago team.

Chicago has many things going in their favor this series.  What they lack in experience and veteran presence, they make up in spades with energy, skill, and heart.  Every player on the Blackhawks knows their role, and contributes whenever they can, and they have a starting goaltender that has won a Stanley Cup (Khabibulin won one with TB in 2003-04).

On the flip-side of the coin, Calgary just looked tired and unmotivated down the stretch of the regular season.  Kiprusoff looks overplayed and fatigued.  There’s also speculation that Regehr (Calgary’s best shut-down defender) will be out injured for at least 2 full playoff rounds.  This Calgary team just seems beat up and weathered right now, and are primed to be taken advantage of by an energetic, smooth skating team like the Blackhawks.

Chicago also has Jonathan Toews (pictured above), who despite being the youngest captain in the NHL,  is every bit as important to his team’s success as Calgary Flames’ captain, Jarome Iginla.  I’d expect Toews to be a large part of Chicago’s success in this first round series.  If Chicago wins (as I expect them to), I think Toews will be their MVP of the series.

One Response to “Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 1 (West) Predictions”

  1. siluete pe plaja…

    […]Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 1 (West) Predictions « f.e.g.n.s.[…]…

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