09 April 2012

2011-12 Western Conference Playoff Picks

Hey, more easy content! I've been pointing at the Nashville Predators for the last couple years, and this year is no different. Even before they brought back Alex Radulov this spring, I was picking Nashville to go deep this year in the playoffs. I don't know if they can win the Stanley Cup, but I think they've got a damn good chance to make it out of a hellacious Western Conference. I think it will largely come down to Nashville or Vancouver to make it out of the West, and assuming Daniel Sedin comes back 100%, I give VAN a slight edge in that matchup, but I could definitely see a series between the two going either way. With that said, let's dive into my playoff picks for the spring.

Round 1:
#1) Vancouver Canucks VS #8) Los Angeles Kings
VAN in 5 - Los Angeles gives in to the inevitable and maintains their underachieving ways. They might steal a game or even two, but they'll quickly get back to mid-season underachieving form. VAN is just too good for LA, and LA just isn't good enough for themselves.

#2) St. Louis Blues VS #7) San Jose Sharks
STL in 6 - As soft and slow as SJ plays, without a good goalie or a good defense, I can't honestly give them a chance in hell against a Hitchcock team. Like taking a fish (Sharks aren't fish, but that's not important) out of water, the Sharks will thrash wildly, and might surprise STL to win 2, but they won't win 4.

#3) Phoenix Coyotes VS #6) Chicago Blackhawks
CHI in 7 - I was really hoping DET would choke their way down to this spot, because PHX is a tough team, but they're not deep, and that makes you vulnerable in the playoffs. CHI isn't perfect either, so this will be a long series, but with Toews coming back, I'm giving them the edge.

#4) Nashville Predators VS #5) Detroit Red Wings
NSH in 6 - As I've said, I'm buying what the Preds are selling. This team is too physical, too good on special teams, and they've got the style and the scheme to give the Red Wings fits, and that's before you consider the Wings sub-.500 record on the road. Everyone noticed the Preds last year, but my money is on this year being their real coming out party.

Round 2:
#1) Vancouver Canucks VS #6) Chicago Blackhawks
VAN in 6 - A large part of this series boils down to the returns of Toews and Sedin, and the level each is able to play at upon his return. If either is less than themselves, it could change this series, but I'm assuming both make it back at full power. Having Corey Schneider as a fall-back and with Chicago's defensive troubles this year, I'm giving this one to VAN.

#2) St. Louis Blues VS #4) Nashville Predators
NSH in 7 - A central division battle between two physical teams who can score capably, but are more known for their goaltending and defensive accomplishments? Yeah, this one goes long. And not just 7-games-long, but multiple-multi-OT-games-in-a-long-series sort of long. I could see it going either way, but I give NSH an edge for experience. STL has a long championship window in front of them, but you have to learn the hard way, and this is where STL does it.

Round 3:
#1) Vancouver Canucks VS #4) Nashville Predators
VAN in 7 - If each team comes in healthy, I think VAN has an edge in offensive depth that NSH can't match. The big question mark here is going to be how each team gets into the series, after having both gone through a grudge match in Round 2. VAN is a better team, but this is the playoffs, and a lot of times it comes down to depth and health. VAN has a deeper pool to drain from, and that could be the difference.

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