Western Conference Playoffs: Round 1 Analysis

Colorado vs Minnesota Both teams are solid here. Living out east it’s been tough not to notice the Aves. Patrick Roy has had his young group playing solid hockey since day 1. With Duchene, Landeslog and O’Reilly becoming household names in 2014, this series is shaping up to be an up and down thriller. The Avalanche definitely have the advantage in net, but a motivated Bryzgolov can neutralize this. I will give a slight edge on the defensemen to Minnesota. Suter will consume Pronger like minutes and really make life difficult on the Colorado attack. I think the difference is going to be the grit we have seen from this Minnesota team in recent weeks. This team is flying high coming into this post-season with some big wins. Prediction: Minnesota keeps the drama train rolling and wins it in 7.   Chicago vs St. Louis This series might be the most intriguing for East Coast viewers. It seems that these two teams have been on a collision course since last season. Things have come together nicely for all hockey fans. I love Chicago, how can you not. They are basically built for the post season and make a case for the most balanced team in the league, year after year. You separate Kane from Toews, and you immediately have two dangerous lines instead of one. Hossa and Sharp are sick dangerous every night. And if Bickle can bring his grit like last year’s playoff run…watch out league. The Defense is as good as ever, and Keith is at the top of his game. The only question mark is health. Are Kane and Toews fully recovered from their recent injuries? My feeling is that the Blues are going to wake up early and stun the Blackhawks in this series. With the Hawks’ top two players having significant injuries, the Blues will jump on them early. Ryan Miller will step up his game against Crawford, and be the difference-maker. Prediction: Backus and Steen are lights out and the Blues win in 5 games.   Dallas vs Anaheim It seems to me that Anaheim is not getting the respect that they deserve from the media heading into the playoffs. The easy sleeper pick here is the Dallas Stars. They have been hot as of late, and possess one of the most dangerous lines in the league with Jamie Been and Tyler Seguin. They are a deep team that plays hard and can certainly be a threat to any opponent. But we are talking about the Anaheim Ducks. For the majority of the season they have been almost unbeatable at home and they have home ice. Getzlav and Perry are as good of a one-two punch as there is in the league; and the team is loaded with secondary scoring. The only issue for the Ducks now is in goal. With Hiller struggling as of late, it looks like Boudreau will be turning to his top prospect rookie goalie John Gibson, who has won all three of his NHL starts. Prediction: I see Gibson keeping pace with Lehtonen: the Ducks in 7. Los Angeles vs San Jose This is another great opening round series between two west coast rivals. This matchup has as much intrigue as you can hope for in a first round tilt. The Kings and the Sharks have played each other extremely tight this (four one-goal games in five contests). L.A. might be one of the most balanced teams in the league since acquiring Marion Gaborik at the deadline. Having Gaboriks’ speed has really opened up the ice for Anze Kopitar who has to be considered a top ten player in the NHL; not to mention a champion. Jonathan Quick had another splendid year between the pipes and if he continues his playoff dominance, the Kings could run away with this series. Of course there is a lot of pressure on the usual suspects for the Sharks. Thornton and Marleau need to be at the top of their game to give them a chance. While you can expect great play from the reliable Pavelski, the Sharks’ goaltending situation worries me. Niemmi, their Cup-winning staple in net, has been struggling as of late. It looks like Todd McLellan knows which tender will play, but doesn’t want to share. Will it be Niemi or Alex Stalock? Stalock has been effective as Niemi’s backup. He finished the season with a 1.87 goals-against average in 24 starts, with a .932 save percentage, and allowed just one goal in his last two games. Prediction: The Kings are too good this year and are playing too well. Los Angeles in 6.