Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NHL PLayoffs: Western Conference

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks

What to expect: A decent series between the best team in the NHL and the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Buzz Killington: The Blackhawks aren't what they used to be. Destroyed by the salary cap after last season, Chicago is missing Dustin Byfuglien, the most important player of their 2010 cup run, among others.

X-Factor: Corey Crawford. If this guy stands on his head, we could have a series on our hands.

Prediction: Vancouver in 5 games. The Canucks are just too good. Vancouver led the league in goals per game and goals against per game, has 2 of the top 5 point scorers on its first line, and has all-star Luongo between the pipes.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings

What to expect: A defensive struggle between perennial playoff disappointers and an up and coming young team.

Buzz Killington: Joe Thornton's career playoff stats. 15 goals in 91 games? Ew.

X-Factor: Dustin Brown. If the low-scoring Kings want to pull off the upset, they're going to need team-leading goal scorer Brown to net 4+ this series.

Prediction: Los Angeles in 6 games. The San Jose Sharks lose early again because Jonathan Quick > Antti Niemi. 

#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes

What to expect: A surprisingly close series. Detroit is fighting through some injuries, while Phoenix has several extremely talented young players.

Buzz Killington: No Phoenix players will be wearing these jerseys.

X-Factor: Iron man Nicklas Lidstrom. Is he too old for playoff hockey? No. No he is not.

Prediction: Detroit in 7 games. Phoenix will give the Red Wings a great series, but in the end, Detroit is Detroit. (As opposed to Cleveland, which is not Detroit).

#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators

What to expect: Some very compelling, hard-hitting, high-scoring games. A few OTs as well. Everything you'd hope for from a 4 vs. 5 matchup.

Buzz Killington: No one will be watching. It's Anaheim vs. Nashville. Do they even have ice?

X-Factor: Pekka Rinne. He's one of the best goalies in the league. As in the Chicago series, a team that's overmatched can't pull off the upset without some stellar netminding.

Prediction: Anaheim in 6 games. Anaheim channels some of that Mighty Ducks magic to dispose of the Predators. Corey Perry averages over 1 point per game.

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