Sportsroids.com’s Western Conference Playoffs Predictions
April 14, 2009 by Big Tony
The Western Conference welcomes newcomers (Columbus), perennial powerhouses (Detroit) and those who haven’t been there in quite a while (Chicago, St. Louis). Those facts make for a very interesting two months so we at sportsroids will try to make it simply for you by previewing the match-ups.
1. San Jose Sharks VS 8. Anaheim Ducks
The first all California NHL playoff match-up since the 1960s puts the old dogs against the new kids on the block… in a way. San Jose has had some very good teams in recent years and have experienced a fair amount of playoff success by getting their consistently and winning their fair share of games. Despite the wins racked up since their inception into the league in the early 1990s, the Sharks have yet to reach the hockey summit. Expectations are now higher for them than ever before after a disappointing year last season leading to the firing of Ron Wilson in favor of Todd McClellan who brought the Sharks their first ever President’s Trophy. The Sharks are a relatively young team but the fans are tired of second round exits and are very much expecting a strong run at the Stanley Cup from the Sharks. On the flip side are the Anaheim Ducks who have been in the league less time than San Jose but already have two Cup finals trips to show for along with a Stanley Cup Championship two short years ago. In that regard the Ducks are the old dogs because they have “been there, done that” where San Jose has not. Bottom line is, the series will come down to experience versus youth; although I think Anaheim is a very dangerous team (despite their 8th seed) who can cause a lot of damage if they get out of the first round. However, I think the Sharks time is now, their coach, city, and players are all read to take that next step and it starts with a six game series win over the in-state rival Ducks.
2. Detroit Red Wings VS 7. Columbus Blue Jackets
Much like the Sharks-Ducks series the Red Wings have been there done that and Columbus hasn’t… ever. This is the first playoff go around for the city of Columbus and the Blue Jackets franchise. There will be a lot of energy in the Nationwide Arena game four as the Blue Jackets host their first playoff game. Despite all the energy the Blue Jackets will have going into Detroit the Red Wings will have too much fire power for the Blue Jackets to succeed. Goaltending has been dicey all season for Detroit but as Chris Osgood has shown before when it counts he is top-notch. Blue Jacket stars Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Kristian Huselius, and rookie phenom Steve Mason will give Columbus a punchers chance in this series but will come up short. Cronwall, Zetterberg, Lindstrom, Franzen, etc. will be way too much for upstart Columbus… Detroit in five.
3. Vancouver Canucks VS 6. St. Louis Blues
Both teams have been hot as of late as St. Louis came from being down and out all the way up to the sixth seed; while Vancouver was 12 points down to Calgary only to surge back to snatch the division title from the Flames. When two hot teams meet on a playoff collision course there are usually a lot of fireworks and should make for a very entertaining series. The Blues have a lot of talent on their team in guys like Brad Boyes, David Backes, David Parron, rookie sensation T.J. Oshie and goaltender extraordinaire Chris Mason. They fought hard to reach this point and have a city that hasn’t seen the playoffs in quite some time pretty charged up. St. Lous will undoubtedly put up a great fight and may very well pull off the upset. However, the Sedin twins, Alex Burrows, Mats Sundin, and Roberto Luongo (the X-factor and probably the most important piece to Vancouver’s puzzle) will push forward in the playoffs and dispose of the Blues in five.
4. Chicago VS 5. Calgary
The Blackhawks are finally back to the playoffs and the city is on fire, burning with passion for their hockey team. Martin Havlat, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp along with solid goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin earned Chicago home-ice in the first round and some very excited fans. Many think Chicago can be very good for a long time but this year may be just a bit too early for the Blackhawks. They are up against a very tough first round opponent who are under a lot of pressure to finally perform in the playoffs after underachieving since their Cup Finals appearance in 2004. The Flames have assembled a lot of stars—Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Dion Phaneuf, and Olli Jokinen to name a few—but the most important player on the ice will be Mikka Kiprusoff. The highly touted netminder has been nothing short of spectacular for Calgary over the years but has played a lot of games over the years (including this season) and has faced a ton of shots. Kiprusoff can hold up but will need help from the team in front of him to take some of the pressure off and limit the shots the Blackhawks get on net. 25-30 shots per game are ok but once you get higher than 30 consistently Kiprusoff is only human and will break down. Limiting shots on goal for Calgary is of the utmost importance if they want to finally have the success many think they can achieve. Although they blew their division lead down the stretch I think the Flames have the right pieces assembled to go deep into the playoffs…starting with a six game series victory over Chicago.