| Western Conference Quarter
Take these to the bank!
We've sized up the first round of the playoffs with
our form of predictions, LGS style. Do not use for gambling or any form of
wagering. For your entertainment (or not) only.
We've called out series
winners, why they'll win, who we think will be the x-factor in the series, but
most importantly, who will be the goat!
|Ken Smyth - Wild in 7
|All right, the Avs have an average
age of 12 but score like crazy. Minnesota made the playoffs but are relying on
Ilya Bryzgalov in their nets after a spate of goalie injuries. This series
could be the upset were all looking for in the first round, assuming the
Wild can get a run from Bryz. Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville are steady guys
up front and the Avs are missing Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay. On the
blueline Minnesota has Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Avs nobody
Standout- Matt Moulson Goat- Avs defense, unless
forwards Nate Mackinnon and Gabriel Landeskog play 60 minutes a game
|Ryan Hall - Wild in
|No one is saying it, but
for my money Colorado is in big trouble facing off against a hungry, talented,
and tested Minnesota squad. On the flip side Patrick Roy leads his young
greenhorns into the playoffs without really knowing how they'll respond. This
gives the edge to the Wild, and the lessons they learned last year in their
loss to Chicago will pay off as they take the over achieving Avs out.
Standouts: Simeon Varlamov is the backbone of Colorado, and if he'll be
the most likely Avalance to make a difference. On the flip side, Ilya Bryzgalov
has endured some tough times in his career, but I think he gets it right this
time backstopping the Wild to Round 2.
Goats: Simeon Varlamov, yup him
again. The Caps gave up on him because they didn't think he was a big game
goaltender. If he proves them correct, he'll take all the heat for an early
exit. Same goes for his counterpart Bryzgalov, who just seems to attract all
the attention for his teams failures.
|Paul Krill - Avalanche in 6
|Colorado has had a tremendous resurgence
and enjoys home ice. I don't pay much attention to these teams but I think
Peter Stastny will star for the Avalanche while Zach Parise will struggle for
the Wild. Parise won't get to the Finals again this year like he did for the
Devils a few years ago.
|Mike Lee - Avalanche in
|For everyone hoping for
the big upset, don't count on it. The Avalanche simply ran roughshod over teams
the last two months of the season and their youth makes them too oblivious to
feel the pressure of the playoffs. Colorado is loaded with young talent, but
simply stacks up better against he Wild from top to bottom. The only question
mark for the Avalanche is who is going to pick up th eslack for Matt Duchesne.
The Avalanche's all-world forward is still on the shelf after injuring his knee
against the Sharks on March 29th.
Standouts: Ryan O'Reilly has been on
fire of late and he will emerge as aplyoff presence agains the overmatched
Wild. Gabriel Landeskog will also make lots of noise in this
Goats: Zach Parise was brought to Minnesota to help them win
Championships. His presence alone won't be enough. Leading scorer Jason
Pominville is a non-factor.
|Ken Smyth - Blues in 7
|Another throwback series to the Norris
Division days, with various Sutter brothers on opposite sides. The Blues looked
like the overall team to beat in the NHL but stumbled into a losing streak in
the last few weeks. With TJ Oshie questionable after a cheap hit to the head by
the Wilds Mike Rupp there is cause for concern. The defending Stanley Cup
Champion Blackhawks sort of laughed their way through the season, confident of
making the 2-3 Central Division matchup, and now find themselves matched
against a traditional and strong rival with game 7 to be on the road. Patrick
Kane has been out for a few weeks with a lower body injury, Jonathan Toews out
for a few games with an upper body injury. This makes one healthy superstar
equivalent starting game one for the Hawks. Prediction here is Blues in seven,
unless Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville finds the on switch.
Standout- Blues goaltender Ryan Miller, who should shine with
coach Ken Hitchcocks defensive system
goaltender Ryan Miller, who needs to shutout the Hawks based on coach Joel
Quennevilles defensive system
|Ryan Hall - Blackhawks in
|What should have been a
great series will sadly turn into a laugher as the Blues are currently without
7 of their top 12 forwards! That number will probably change, but even missing
1 or 2 pieces against the Hawks is enough to sink a St. Louis team that really
stumbled down the stretch. About the only thing that can save the Blues would
be Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews not being ready to play, or Ryan Miller
stealing the series. I don't see either of those things happening.
Standout: For St. Louis to have a change, Ryan Miller needs to channel his
Buffalo Sabres of 2006/7 self and shut the door. On the other side, Patrick
Sharp has been on fire this season, and an injured Blues team should help him
Goats: Ken Hitchcock is the Blue with the most to answer for
if things go south, as coaches only have a certain shelf-life, and his might be
running out in St. Louis. On the other side, nothing could sink the Hawks
quicker than Cory Crawford springing some leaks, as there is no one on the
depth chart behind him.
|Paul Krill - Blues in 6
|The Blues have been the team to beat lately
while Chicago has to be burnt out from making the Finals last year. Ryan
Miller, who has withstood Olympic pressure for Team USA, will come up big for
Saint Louis while tired Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford will falter. Lately,
though, neither team has been stellar - the Blues were 3-7 in their last 10
games while the Blackhawks were 5-5.
|Mike Lee - Blackhawks in
|St Louis crawled to the
finish line during the regular season, dropping their last 7 games and by all
indications, they'll do the same against a battle proven Blackhawks lineup that
knows how to win in the playoffs. Chicago also has something to prove. After
winning it all last season, they've looked nothing like the defending Stanley
Cup Champions late in the regular season. If Corey Crawford can get right, the
Hawks could be looking at a return visit to the finals. The new playoff
scheduling format makes this game a travesty. St Louis was one of the hottest
teams all season. Subtract their late season implosion and you have two of the
best teams in the West facing off in the first round. Lame.
Forget the Blackhawks usual cast of characters. The defense will be the biggest
difference in this series. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy and Niklas
Hjalmarsson make Corey Crawford look like a world beater.
Remember how T.J. Oshie was all world in the Olympics. You'll barely hear his
name in this series.
|Ken Smyth - Ducks in 6
|Put two former Pacific Division rivals who
dont care for each other in the same rink and add a surprise goaltending
question. Anaheim looked like they should breeze through here but theyve
been stale for a few weeks. Dallas is young and hungry . (Only Edmonton is
young and well-fed, look where that got them!) . This should be Anaheim in six
games, but the recent question in goal between rookie John Gibson and a
struggling Jonas Hiller has people wondering. I still think the Ducks have too
much depth no matter who is in goal. Neutralize the Corey Perry /Ryan Getzlaff
line and they still have big bodies to wear you down. Dallas has Jamie Benn and
Tyler Seguin, plus original Shark Ray Whitney up front and good goaltending in
Kari Lehtonen and Tim Thomas.
Standout- Teemu Selanne, his last season.
He came in with a bang and will want to leave with one
special teams, losing Rich Peaverly doesnt help
|Ryan Hall - Ducks in
|In a strange twist of
fate, the first playoff match-up for the Ducks in the new format is against an
old division foe. That means both sides are well acquainted, and should get the
bad blood flowing early! While Anaheim has been streaky, their offense is just
too deep for the Dallas to keep up with, unless Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn
carry them. The only intriguing angle though is the uncertainty in each crease,
where the lurking specter of Tim Thomas for the Stars could shift things in
their favour if he gets the call.
Standouts: In the playoffs, chippy
play rules and that is right up Cory Perry's avenue. On the other side, Tyler
Seguin has already proven himself to be a postseason star as well, so look for
him to shine brightly.
Goats: Jonas Hiller/Frederick Anderson
(goalies) in Anaheim both have to prove that the last few weeks of the season
were flukes. If the Ducks stumble, it'll all rest on them. Conversely, Kari
Lehtonen has yet to win a playoffs game in his career (0-4), so he loom large
as the one to blame in Dallas.
|Paul Krill - Ducks in 5
|I'd love to see Dallas win this series but
it won't happen. Ducks in 5, maybe 4. The usual cast - Corey Perry and Ryan
Getzlaf, will light up the lamp for Anaheim while Dallas's Kari Lehtonen
struggles in goal. Should be an easy series win for Southern California's Extra
NHL Team. Maybe they'll even sell the place out.
|Mike Lee - Ducks in
|Don't look for any
miracles here. Dallas was a cute story late in the season, but their assent to
the 8th seed also came courtesy of a Coyotes team that lost 6 of 10 games to
piss a playoff spot away. Anaheim will man-handle the the Stars. Look for
Anaheim to get complacent in Dallas to drop one game, but that will refocus
them. Look for a mauling in Game 5.
Standouts: The Ducks have two guys
that can kill you and they'll do exactly that against the Stars. The only
question is, who will score more goals, Corey Perry or Ryan
Goats: Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn acounted for 30% of the
Stars goal production this season. Once the Ducks take those guys out of the
equation by beating them senseless, the Stars will be seing stars.
|Ken Smyth - Sharks in 7
|OK, two teams with lots of RECENT playoff
history, this will be the third meeting in four years. LA coach Darryl Sutter
has the Kings playing his game of dumping the puck in and banging people; they
dont mind a 2-1 win and goaltender Jonathan Quick has a Stanley Cup ring
from 2012. The Sharks can put out four lines that move the puck, not something
were used to seeing; also seven healthy legitimate NHL defensemen.
Thats another thing were not used to seeing in April when typically
the Sharks 5-6 defensive pair is a couple guys who should be in the press box.
The Kings added Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline to help with scoring. The
Sharks will have Raffi Torres and Tomas Hertl back after injury. Dont
expect Kings captain Dustin Brown to get much respect from the Sharks. Based on
the last regular season game between these two teams, this should be the
nastiest of the eight series.
Standout- Joe Pavelski, wherever he plays
on a given night
Goat- LA defenseman Drew Doughty, who can look like a
Norris Trophy candidate a lot of times, but not often enough
|Ryan Hall - Sharks in
|You read that right:
Sharks in 5. If there ever was a team that the Sharks know better than
themselves, it's the Kings who played the villains role last year in a
thrilling 7 game classic. This time around the Sharks know exactly what it'll
take to get past the Kings, and have the forward depth to truly test LA in ways
they couldn't last year. While each game will be tight, in the end the bounces
will go San Jose's way, and they'll take care of business quickly.
Standouts: When the playoffs come around, Joe Pavelski seems to shine and in
this series that won't change. His counterpart Justin Williams also seems to be
a post-season stud, with a knack for driving daggers in the Sharks.
Goats: Right now the man with the biggest pressure is Anti Niemi, who needs to
prove that he really is a money goaltender. If the Sharks are playing Alex
Stalock at any point in this series, you can bet Niemi will be the one bearing
the blame. On the other side, Dustin Brown needs to have a bounce back period
after awful regular season that has some fans question whether he should be
moved. If the Kings go out (and they will), it'll all fall on their captain.
|Paul Krill - Sharks in 7
|At last - a series where I don't have to go
looking up stats because I actually pay a lot of attention to one of the teams
involved. Joe Pavelski will continue his Brett Hull imitation and get open for
clear shots on goal while Alex Stalock replaces Anti Niemi between the pipes,
after Niemi struggles. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick will struggle as well,
failing to get it done just like at the Olympics. Sharks in 7.
|Mike Lee - Kings in
|As much as it pains me to
say it, the Sharks don't get out of the fisrt round this year. The Sharks and
Kings have staged some pretty entertaining series the past few years, but this
will be the series that exposes the Sharks age and holes in net. Todd McLellan
will lean on Antti Niemi early, Niemi will surrender some soft goals, forcing
McLellan to make a change. Alex Stalock will put up a valiant fight, but his
playoff inexperience will eventually do him and the Sharks in. This series will
come down to special teams. The Kings will execute with the man advantage, and
the Sharks won't. Don't expect to see Raffi Torres in the lineup, or Tomas
Hertl to have any impact. His return simply came too late.
This will be a slugfest, but look for the Kings supporting cast to make the
biggest diffeence in the series. Guys like Alec Martinez, Tyler Toffoli and
Robyn Regehr step up as the big guns are locked up with the Sharks big
Goats: The Sharks power play will do them in. Goals will come at a
premium in this series and the Sharks absence of a formidable power play will
be their Achilles heel.
our Eastern Conference predictions.
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