The trees are blooming and the horizon is turning greener. The Days are longer, the weather is warming up (sort of). This could only mean one thing, NHL Playoffs. Some teams are predictably in and there are a few surprises. But that is what the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about, a lot of unpredictability. This year I am starting with the Western Conference.
The west has been full of surprises, but it’s the same faces going into the playoffs as last year. Well, Colorado isn’t there, although they should have been. Calgary beat them out for that last 8 spot. The top three are the same top three everyone predicted this year, Detroit, Anaheim and Nashville are your dominates. Vancouver came out of no where on the back of one of the best goaltenders in the league. Minnesota and Dallas just had to survive to keep their playoffs hopes realized, and both did. A tough group to pick a winner, but there has to be only one.
So wonder no more, here are my fearless predictions for the Western Conference and your Conference Champion:
Calgary Flames at Detroit Red Wings – The early exit for the Red Wings are fresh in the minds of their players. They are hoping for different fortunes with a proven winner Dominik Hasek in net to back them up. But the Wings have a history of finishing the season strong and being listless in the post season. The Flames have something to prove too, after taking a beating this season from media that had given up on the Calgary squad, they look to silence their critics. This should be less than a 1 seed versus an 8 seed and more like two power houses going at it.
Detroit wins in 6 games
Minnesota Wild at Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks looked unstoppable this season early. Then mid season they looked vulnerable only to look tough to beat once more. The only question the Ducks may have is goaltending. While J.S. Giguere looks to be the #1, he still looks a little shy in net. Minnesota doesn’t have a goaltending problem. They have two goalies that look poised to be used all post season long, but are they playoff material? Plus they have their scoring power healthy and ready for a post season run with Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik back in the line up. Could that be enough for Minnesota?
Minnesota shocks and wins in 7 games
Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks – This is going to be a goaltending duel. Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco are two heavyweight goaltenders that decide games. Turco may win some respect back from the Dallas faithful who seem to have turned on the all-star goaltender. The Canucks would not be in the playoffs if they had not traded for Luongo, simple as that. He has rewired this team, and now they reap the benefits of having an exceptional goaltender and a chance to make a playoff run. I will give the old Southeast Division goalie his due.
Vancouver wins in 5 games
San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators – The Predators seemed to make the perfect move picking up Peter Forsberg to fill out their offense. And while Forsberg has made some small improvement to the Nashville squad, they still seem to come up on the short end of the stick when it comes to big games. San Jose is battle hardened. Quietly, this team has been making deep runs in the playoffs commonplace. Joe Thornton looks to carry this team deep again.
San Jose wins in 7 games
Vancouver at San Jose – Luongo is good, but the Canucks are going to need more than just good goaltending to get past the second round. Their offense needs to pick up. San Jose is going to make it interesting but Vancouver is my dark horse for the West. So there.
Vancouver wins in 6 games
Minnesota at Detroit – The Wingers will be so excited to get this far! But, at what cost? The Flames will have most certainly taken a bite out of the boys in red. And while they may be limping to face a Wild team, Minnesota is not equipped to travel far into the playoffs. If Minnesota hopes to win, it will take some major heroics.
Detroit wins in 5 games
Western Conference Final
Vancouver at Detroit – Wow! That is a pretty bold prediction, considering last year I had San Jose and Detroit sitting pretty here and it was Anaheim and Edmonton in the Western Final. This year I am sticking with my gut, which is a little bigger this year due to beer consumption, but that’s another story. Vancouver will be riding high on Luongo’s outstanding play so far. That will build their confidence. Detroit will face a tougher challenge than Minnesota. That lopsided competition may catch the Wing squad unprepared for a poised Canuck team. So, sorry Detroit fans, the playoff train ends here for you.
Vancouver goes on to the Stanley Cup finals in 7 games
Stay tuned for the Eastern Conference breakdown and my fearless prediction on who is taking home Lord Stanley’s Cup. I am so excited I could just spit!