NHL Western Conference Playoff Preview

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NHL Western Conference Playoffs




#1 Canucks versus #8 Blackhawks

Season series: Canucks won 2-1-1.

The Canucks won their 1st President’s Trophy in franchise history. This may be an honor, but it is the Stanley Cup or bust in Vancouver. 

First step on their road to The Cup will be to beat the defending champion Blackhawks. This will be a huge psychological boost if the Canucks can beat the team that has ousted them in the past 2 playoffs.

On paper, this is the best Canucks team ever with 3 players in the top-15 NHL scoring, including Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel Sedin, and goaltender Roberto Luongo coming off his strongest year. 

The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks will come into this series after qualifying for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season. They also come into this series as the underdog. 

With top players, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook the Hawks will have plenty of experience. However, it will be the first NHL playoffs series as a No. 1 goalie for Corey Crawford, who spent last year in the AHL.

#2 Sharks versus #7 Kings

Season series: Sharks won 3-1-2.

Goalie Antti Niemi leads the Sharks into the post-season and will be looking to win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years.

Niemi, signed away from Chicago last summer, had a solid 2nd half of the season after starting very average. He won 9 of his final 11 games.

The Sharks top 3 forwards — Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley each finished with lower point totals than last year but will once again be looked upon to lead this team in the playoffs.

The Kings enter this series without leading scorer Anze Kopitar, and are hoping to get Justin Williams back from his dislocated shoulder injury.

The Kings are returning to the post-season for the 2nd year in-a-row, after a long playoff drought before that. They will look to build off the experience they gained from a close 6-game series versus the Canucks last year.

#3 Red Wings versus #6 Coyotes

Season series: Coyotes won 2-0-2.

This will be a re-match of the 1st round series from last year where the Red Wings beat the Coyotes in 7 games. 

The Wings are always a solid pick to do well in the NHL playoffs. They had another solid year, as they earned at least 100 points for the 11th straight season. However, this team did not finish the season as strong as they have played for most of the year. Time will tell if they have been slumping or just resting top players for a long playoff run. 

Henrik Zetterberg remains questionable to start the series because of a knee injury.

The Coyotes have been steadily improving as a franchise, and as a result put together another solid year. 

There is a concern for the lack of offense, as Shane Doan was the only player to reach the 20 goals mark. 

Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has been a solid in net all year, and is the Coyotes key to winning the series.

#4 Ducks versus #5 Predators

Season series: Predators won 3-1-0.

This will be a series with a lot of focus on the goaltenders. 

The Ducks 3rd goaltender Dan Ellis could get the call in Game 1 because Ray Emery is battling a lower-body injury, and Jonas Hiller continues to struggle with vertigo.

The Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has been their team's top player with a .930 save percentage and a 2.12 goals-against average.

The Ducks have been playing well heading into the playoffs thanks to the play of forward Corey Perry, who scored 19 goals over the final 16 games. Perry is now a top contender for the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

The Predators have also been on a tear finishing the on a 9-2-1 run. They will be trying to advance past the 1st round of the NHL playoffs for the first time in franchise history.



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