NHL Western Conference Playoff Preview

by Coretti on April 13, 2016

The betting lines and analysis on the four Western Conference series and how you should consider placing your friendly wagers according to Coretti…

 

This article will have little to no focus on stats, rather, it is simply my take on who will advance out of the first round. That being said, I obviously consider stats when choosing a winner for each series, however, if I included all that this would turn into a lengthy essay. Regardless, enjoy this piece and good luck to all of you in your playoff pools. Furthermore, any discussion regarding my selections would be fantastic in the comments.

#2 Los Angeles Kings (-190) vs. #3 San Jose Sharks (+150)

My eyes will be glued to this series. This could easily go the distance for seven games as both teams will be extremely motivated in this opening round matchup.

SERIES SUMMARY

The Sharks seem to be clicking really well this season. I mean Joe Thornton has had a remarkable year and single handily won a lot of people their fantasy pools. Joe Pavelski is producing like a bona fide star as we would expect. Brent Burns looks like the second coming of Paul Coffey. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau have caught fire down the stretch. Really, the only true question mark for me in regards to the Sharks is in the crease. The Sharks have two goalies more than capable of playing between the pipes in Martin Jones and James Reimer. The question is who it will be? I’m not a big fan of the 1A and 1B and this could prove to be the Achilles heel of the Sharks headed into this series. 

On the Kings side you know what you’re going to get and that’s tough experienced hockey. After missing the post-season last year you can bet the Kings are back for blood. The Kings are a deep squad that have been here before and that experience is invaluable when it comes to the playoffs. Jonathan Quick has had an up and down season but for the most part he has answered the bell when called upon leading the Kings to a solid finish. Los Angeles is very hungry as they were forced to golf last April. However, I don’t like this first round matchup for them. Additionally, the loss of Mr. Clutch aka Justin Williams could be a difference maker in this one.

PREDICTION – Sharks @ +150

I can’t begin to tell you how many playoff pools I have lost because of the Sharks. But no matter how many times I have been disappointed I still can’t get them off my mind. This is the case for this year once again. My gut is screaming yes but my heart is saying no after so much heartbreak. I think the Sharks will win this series based on a few points and subsequent storylines.

  1. Martin Jones would looooooooove to eliminate his ex-team.
  2. The Sharks have not forgot about what the Kings did to them two years ago, actually they probably still have nightmares of blowing that three-game lead in the first round. 
  3. Thornton is usually known to be a dud come playoffs but this season Jumbo Joe has been unreal. I really think Thornton is going to do everything in his power to win this series and if he shows up… the Sharks will get it done. Plus his beard is badass.
  4. Burns has officially become a game-changer and he will be huge in this series.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Joel WardThis isn’t a typo. Something tells me Ward is going to have a major impact somewhere along the line. Joel loves to get in the dirty areas and he is built for playoff play in my opinion. Snag Ward late in your draft if you’re feeling the Sharks and thank me later.

 

#2 St. Louis (+100) vs. #3 Chicago (-125)

The Blues look primed for a long playoff run but the defending Stanley Cup champions stand in their way. Can Vladimir Tarasenko and co slay the beast in this tasty opening round matchup?

SERIES SUMMARY

The Blues had a solid year finishing second in the Central division. Unfortunately for them they take on a juggernaut in the Chicago Blackhawks. Much like the Sharks, the Blues can’t seem to get things rolling in the post-season. The last time these teams met was in the playoffs during the 2014 post-season, with the Blues blowing a two game series lead before losing four straight. What has changed since then? A lot. For one both teams have acquired and developed new talent such as Artem Panarin on the Blackhawks side. On the Blues end, Tarasenko is much more experienced and it has shown in his play this season.

But in a series like this the smallest things can make the difference between winning and losing. That being said, Duncan Keith missing game one of this series could prove to be fatal for the Blackhawks. But my real concern lays in the general health of the Blackhawks as the Blues are known to play a physical brand of hockey. With players such as Marian Hossa and more importantly Corey Crawford coming off injuries the question is how healthy are they? Crawford got lit up like a Christmas tree in his return letting up five goals against the Blue Jackets. Even more alarming is that Crawford has allowed 14 goals in his last three games.

PREDICTION – Blues @ +100

This series will go the distance. That being said I believe the Blues will wear them down with their physical play and consequently slay the beast that is the Chicago Blackhawks. Another factor here will be in between the pipes and I think Crawford is vulnerable right now. All the Blues need is one slipup from Crawford which they will get.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Vladimir TarasenkoHe will have to have a solid series if the Blues have any chance of escaping the first round. Tarasenko will deliver and score a couple of game winners. He is ready to take that next step and lead the Blues to victory. With all eyes on Patrick Kane and Artem Panarin, it will be Tarasenko getting the last laugh in this series.

 

#1 Anaheim (-225) vs. #4 Nashville (+175)

Not many analysts believe the Predators have a chance to knock off the Ducks. What gives? Are the Ducks just that good or do the Predators have some issues?

SERIES SUMMARY

The Ducks avoided their two California rivals, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings for the opening round. In steps in the Nashville Predators who have had a rather up and down season. Nashville has been known to play tough defensive hockey with stud defenseman such as Shea Weber and Roman Josi on the blue line. However, the only Western Conference playoff team that has allowed more goals than the Predators this season is the Dallas Stars. A big reason for this spike in goals allowed this season is because of the mediocre play of Pekka Rinne who finished the season with a .908 SV%. The poor play of Rinne does not bode well for the Predators who will need him to be in elite form to have any chance of advancing.

All things considered the Preds did have the upper hand on the Ducks this season winning two of three games against them. The acquisition of Ryan Johansen could prove to be a difference maker as his game breaking abilities are exactly what the Preds lacked in prior years. On the Ducks side we see possibly the most balanced team in the NHL. Additionally, the Ducks boast an experienced bunch led by Ryan Getzlaf who always elevates his play come April. But the real difference maker on the Ducks side will be Ryan Kesler who is a devastating two-way player.

PREDICTION – Ducks @ -225

I respect what the Predators have done by acquiring Johansen but I don’t think it will be enough. My main concern is the goaltending. The Ducks have two goalies who are more than capable of getting it done in the crease, whereas Rinne really looks weak. I think the Ducks will expose Rinne and make it a quick series in order to gear up for the real test in the next round.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Ryan JohansenThis could have easily been Ryan Kesler but we know he will deliver come Game 1. The real question is can Johansen? If Johansen can have an impact and Rinne can stand on his head than the Predators will have a chance. Down the stretch Johansen had 13 points in ten games which could be a positive sign of things to come.

 

#1 Dallas (-250) vs. #4 Minnesota (+200)

Are the high powered Stars too much for the Wild to handle? This series will be very exciting to watch as the Stars franchise actually originated in Minnesota before the club relocated to Dallas in the early 90s. A juicy storyline to say the least as things can get heated in this opening round matchup.

SERIES SUMMARY

Let’s start this off with the Stars. Offensively speaking they are possibly the most explosive in the NHL. The 1-2 punch of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin is a beauty to watch every time they step on the ice. Then there is Jason Spezza who has led this Stars power play to fourth best in the league clicking at 22.1%. You want some playoff experience? How about Patrick Sharp. I mean on offense it doesn’t get any better really… unless we are talking Blackhawks. On the back end you have John Klingberg who has been compared to by many as a younger version of Sergei Zubov. However, in between the crease things get a little murky. I have never been a fan of the 1A and 1B and this could be a major weakness for the Stars if they plan to go deep.

PREDICTION – Stars @ -250

It’s always tough to bet against the top seed in the Conference but I really feel that the Wild can pull this off. Goaltending and defense are pivotal when it comes to post-season play and the Stars are arguably shaky in each department. The Wild have to slow the pace and make this series a battle of will rather than skill. I think they can do just that and grind out a series win. However, the Wild will be without a Zach Parise and even when he does play he won’t be the same with his degenerative back. That being said… I have to side with the Stars as the star power they possess will be just too much.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Devan DubnykThis is a stiff test for Dubnyk. The defense in front of him will be key in his success as you can guarantee he will be seeing a lot of rubber. Devan has games where he looks unstoppable and then there are games where he looks like a pasta strainer. Which Devan Dubnyk are we going to get?

 

– Follow Jonathan Coretti on Twitter (@HolyPuckHockey)