With the schedule out and about, and my Eastern preview completed it’s time for the wild wild west.
#1 Chicago Blackhawks VS. #8 Minnesota Wild
Whats up: Hey, do you think the Wild have a chance in this series? Yeah that’s the sound of crickets. Okay Minny has improved a lot, and will be a contender in a few years, but to think that the Wild even have a remote chance in taking this series is ridiculous. If there was a real season this year, then the Blackhawks would have pushed 60 wins and 130 points. That is unheard of. The Hawks are the team to beat in the West and the Wild squeaked into the playoffs on the last day. The only pain that will be inflicted on the Blackhawks is the fact that no female reporters will want to step foot inside the dressing room for the fear of being bashed by Duncan Keith.
Watch Ron Macleans reaction to Don as he says that woman should not be allowed in the dressing rooms.
Matchup: Toews, Hossa, Kane Train VS. $196 million – Jonny Toews, Patty Kane and Marian Hossa will all be on absolute missions to hoist their second Stanley. Toews and Kane could both be mentioned in the same sentence as Hart, and when you have two players on the same team that could be league MVP’s you can’t really go wrong. Marian Hossa has proved that his two-way style of play can be a menace in the playoffs. He’s been to the final dance three times –with Detroit (loss), Pittsburgh (loss), and Chicago (win)– and is looking to make it four. The two-headed monster in Minnesota is that of the two big free-agent signings in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Suter is most-likely going to play the entire game, with a few water breaks (TV time-outs), and Parise is gonna be heavily relied on to score goals.
Gambreakers: Chicago won’t really need to rely on secondary scoring, but Brandon Saad who’s name is up in the air for the Calder, could help put the series away with some added scoring.
Minnesota isn’t your average offensive powerhouse, so they are gonna have to heavily lean on Nicklas Backstrom to help steal them some games. If he can do that, then maybe the series won’t be done in four, but in five or six.
Prediction: Nicklas Backstrom will steal a grand total of one game for his team, and the Hawks will take it in five on home ice.
#2 Anaheim Ducks VS. #7 Detroit Red Wings
What’s up: If there’s an upset in the first round of the playoffs, this will be the series where it may take place. The Ducks went on a torrid start to the season and found themselves with the Pacific division locked up pretty early. Then from there they were an average team, and are facing a new-look Red Wings team that will be playing meaningful hockey for the 23rd straight year. This series looks like it could be a pretty high-scoring affair, and it’s gonna come down to goaltending. Can Fasth out play Howard or will the goalie with two first names and his brand new contract help surge the Wings through to meet the Blackhawks in the second round?
Matchup: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry VS. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg – These big guns up front are gonna lead the charge offensively for their respective clubs. After sub-par seasons last year, Getzlaf and Perry led the Ducks to the top of the Pacific division. The two big forwards are the staples up front if the Ducks want to continue their season throughout May and June. On the other bench is Datsyuk and Zetterberg, and with the departure of Lidstrom these two have carried their younger Red Wings team to the playoffs. They just have to hope that their backs don’t give up on them as the magician had eight points in his last three games and the Swede tallied ten in the last four, bringing their team into the playoffs snagging that spot from Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets.
Just a little bit of what you’re going to see from Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Gamebreakers: The man that never stops, Teemu Selanne at 42 years of age is still in incredibly good shape. He is fast and can score, and if the big guns are shut down offensively then Teemu will be called upon to put some ginos up on the board for the Ducks.
In Detroit the man that can complete the upset will be Jimmy Howard. He’s coming off his best season yet, as he posted a 2.13 GAA and .923 save percentage. He played 42 of the Red Wings 48 games and only allowed four goals in the final five games of the season to lock up a spot for his squad in the playoffs.
Prediction: Like I predicted in the East, the number seven team will upset the number two. Jimmy Howard is going to stand on his head and Datsyuk and Zetterberg will lead the way offensively as the Wings take the Ducks in six.
#3 Vancouver Canucks VS. San Jose Sharks
What’s up: In a rematch of the 2011 Conference Final, the Sharks are looking to have a different fate this year. With both coaches most likely coaching for their jobs in this series, it’s going to be a pretty hard fought battle. The Canucks are going to have to shut down Jumbo Joe and the Sharks will have to do the same with the Sedins. It’s Schneiders time to prove that he is an elite goalie, and the Canucks are going to need some secondary scoring from Kesler’s line and same with Roy’s. The Sharks got rid of Ryan Clowe and Douglas Murray which makes them a bit smaller, but the addition of Raffi Torres may prove to be lethal. Raffi hits to hurt, and let’s just hope he doesn’t do the same thing to any of the Canucks as he did to Joe Thornton in that showdown in 2011.
At about .35 you get to see Torres destroy Thornton. The hit actually dislocated Joe’s shoulder, but he played the final game of the series. Hockey players are tough eh? Take note Cristiano Ronaldo.
Matchup: Alain Vigneault VS. Todd McLellan – I think it’s pretty safe to say that whoever comes out of this series alive, literally comes out alive. If the Canucks take it, McLellan will be packing his things and looking for a new job, and the same thing goes for AV. These two teams have been juggernauts in the West for the past few years, and save from the Canucks Stanley Cup Final run in 2011 there have been no results. With the windows closing for both teams and the star players not getting any younger, they’ve got their asses on the line for sure.
Gamebreakers: If Vancouver doesn’t make it to at least the Conference Finals then fans will be considering this season a write off. And the man that could make that playoff run happen is Ryan Kesler. Everyone remembers when he went superhuman on the Nashville Predators on the way to the Cup Finals, and he really hasn’t been the same player since. If he can regain his form and play that power-forward style of hockey that we know he can then the Canucks have a legitimate chance in going all the way.
In the Bay Area we’ve got Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. These two have been the thorn in the side for the Canucks the last couple seasons, and will be counted on to provide some punch and win face-offs. The trio of Couture, Thornton and Pavelski as the top three centres is as good as any other in the league, and they’ll need to play big if they want to take out the Canucks.
Prediction: Both goalies will play well, and all six games will be low-scoring affairs, but when Tanev makes his way into the lineup, the Canucks defence will go back to normal and will shut down the Sharks offence. Canucks in six.
My side note: The green men will piss off anyone who finds their way into the sin bin and let’s hope we get to see another pair of ta-ta’s.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a clear video of the boobs but above is what we’ll get to see come Wednesday.
#4 St Louis Blues VS #5 Los Angeles Kings
What’s up: Los Angeles is coming off of a championship last year, and much like last season have left themselves without home ice advantage for the post season. They are matched up against a St Louis team that wants a different fate than the four-nothing sweep that the Kings handed to them in the Conference Semis last year. And luckily for every other team in the West, one of these two teams will be eliminated, and the other will be extremely sore. This is the clash of the titans. The Blues and Kings play an identical style of play; both have goalies that can steal games, have a steady defensive corps and a number of big forwards that will wear down the opposition. This series will go long, it will be low scoring and the team that wins will be lucky to come out alive.
Matchup: Dustin Brown VS. David Backes – Goliath versus Goliath. The two guys that will be leading their teams to war are Brown and Backes. The two captains are huge power-forwards that deliver thunderous hits and can help out offensively. Brown is known to draw penalties and get in on the forecheck. The only thing with him is that, if you decide that you want to get him off his game, you can’t. You hit him hard, then what? He just get’s back up laughing and hits you back twice as hard. Backes is the exact same player and that’s what is going to make this series so good. By the end of the series, they will hate each-other and only one will be left standing.
Gamebreakers: We all know that this will be a low-scoring series so I’m gonna leave the obvious choices of Quick and Elliot out of here.
In St. Louis we’ve got Jay Bouwmeester. This is his first ever playoff series. Hard to believe considering he’s been one of the top defenseman in the league over the last decade, but this iron-man leading guy has never played a single playoff game in his career. He will be the ultimate shutdown guy, much like how Willie Mitchell was last season. If he can keep the likes of Kopitar, Carter and Richards at bay, then the Blues have a good chance in wiping out the defending champs.
And just like that, the man in black that may help charge this team to back-to-back championships is Drew Doughty. Doughty had an off season last year, but when the playoffs rolled around he was lights out. The Kings are hoping for the same sort of performance from Doughty in this years playoffs. If he can take charge of the blue line and help shut down the Blues scorers like Oshie and Stewart, then the Kings should be well on their way to advancing through.
Prediction: The winner of this series plays Vancouver in the second round. And that team will be St Louis. The additions of Leopold and Bouwmeester to an already steady defence will put them over the edge in this series as they take out the defending champs in seven.