Wild West: Play-In Predictions
Now that we can focus on real-time hockey events, it is time to write about things that are about to happen.
Not involved are Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. Colorado, St. Louis, Dallas and Vegas are through automatically to the actual playoffs but will play a round-robin to decide home ice advantage. First round matchups are Arizona against Nashville, Calgary against Winnipeg, Chicago against Edmonton, and Minnesota against Vancouver.
The Play-ins begin August 1st and here are my predictions for each series.
Arizona Coyotes (33-29-4-4) vs Nashville Predators (35-26-5-3)
Nashville will be looking to redeem their poor showing from last year when they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round against Dallas in six games. Arizona is just happy to have a chance to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12.
Both teams have a lot of pressure to do well this year as both clubs have backed themselves into a corner as Nashville isn't trending upwards as much as they were and Arizona has mortgaged quite a bit of their future to get Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel.
Goaltending in Arizona will keep this one close but I have to figure that the playoff experience in Nashville will get them through.
Predators in four
Calgary Flames (36-27-6-1) vs Winnipeg Jets (37-28-4-2)
This matchup reminds of the 1980s and Don Whitman doing play by play on the CBC. Many people in Calgary will forgive the poor seasons that Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan have had if they can go a few rounds this year in the playoffs. A loss to the Jets and many will question the Flames roster and core. Winnipeg has had their defence gutted since last season and are just not as good as they were. Having said that, they still are very talented in the forwards.
Both teams have potent offences and fairly good power plays. The difference for me will be the penalty kill where Calgary is a little better and the depth on the back end where Winnipeg will suffer. I'm looking forward to this series.
Flames in five
Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-4-4) vs Edmonton Oilers (37-25-7-2)
On paper this series shouldn't even be close. In reality, the Blackhawks have a lot of experience in the playoffs compared to the Oilers and could pose a threat and rain on the Oilers good season. There is more pressure on Edmonton than Chicago.
The Oilers power play and penalty kill should win this series, but we know from past experience that potent power plays can dry up very quickly. Goaltending is an issue for both teams and I just don't think that Chicago is deep enough to stop Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl over a series.
Oilers in four
Minnesota Wild (35-27-4-3) vs Vancouver Canucks (36-27-3-3)
This should be a tight series, with the Canucks having a few more offensive guns than the Wild, but the Wild boasting a more solid defence. These teams seem to be going in opposite directions of development, and this series is very important for both. The much-maligned veterans on the Canucks have to step up and prove their worth. If the Canucks lose against the Wild, it can't be pinned on the young players.
In watching these teams play in the regular season, the Canucks will have trouble containing Kevin Fiala and some of the bigger forwards on the Wild. Conversely, the Canucks will need their power play to be good and make a difference. I'd have to give the edge to the Canucks in goaltending if Jacob Markstrom is in net.
Canucks in four
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