2011 NHL Playoffs – Round 1 West

OK, it’s time to discuss how I feel the first round of the NHL playoffs will go in the West. It’s a day later than I had planned to have them out, but I editing the East breakdown to make it look like the delay was planned. It wasn’t, but whatever.

(1) Vancouver Canucks v. (8) Chicago Blackhawks

For the third year in a row, these two teams face off in the playoffs. Only this time it’s in the first round, so there’s a lot more at stake. The Canucks come into this series with the league’s best record, most goals scored, fewest goals allowed and a desire to exorcise the demons of the past two springs when the Blackhawks knocked them out in the second round. The Blackhawks for their part are the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and needed help to make the playoffs. They won’t say it, but I’m sure they’re actually thankful to be in the playoffs. These are not the 2010 Blackhawks, and as such I think will not be able to beat the Canucks, who have clearly identified this year as their year. Sure, they’re facing some serious injuries, but they have been battling them all year and put together the best season in the franchise’s history. I’m going with Canucks in 6.

(2) San Jose Sharks v. (7) Los Angeles Kings

It’s an all-California series, which doesn’t happen too often. The Sharks have come on late to snag the division crown and second in the conference. The Kings slipped as they were hit with injuries to key members of the team. The Kings have been building a good, young team for years now, and it’s starting to pay off. That being said, the Sharks have been battling playoff disappointment for years now. Thus, both teams have some baggage. But, I think the Sharks, with the experience of having made the conference final last year will advance at the expense of the Kings, who are starting to learn how to win. The Kings’ time will come, but not this year. Sharks in 6.

(3) Detroit Red Wings v. (6) Phoenix Coyotes

Another rematch from last season, in the same round no less. The Coyotes have never won a playoff series since they were ripped out of Winnipeg after the 1994-1995 season. The Red Wings are the Red Wings; no use belabouring that point. I’m labelling this more of a grudge match than the Canucks-Blackhawks series, since these two teams more closely resemble last year’s iterations than the aforementioned teams do. Last year I went with the Coyotes because I thought they were fresher and the Red Wings, despite their experience, were tired after a Stanley Cup win in 2008 and a loss in the final in 2009. This year, I’m again going with the Coyotes, but because they will have revenge on the mind. Coyotes in 7.

(4) Anaheim Ducks v. (5) Nashville Predators

Part of me wants to cheer for the Ducks, to give Saku Koivu a shot at the Stanley Cup. However, I don’t want to see Kyle Chipchura win the Stanley Cup, because it would be sickening to see a wasted draft pick win the Cup before the Canadiens do. However, again, Chipchura winning would mean the Stanley Cup will be coming to Westlock this summer, which would be neat. Back to my predictions. The Predators have never won a playoff series. The Ducks, granted with many different players, won it all in 2007. The Ducks played well down the stretch to snag a playoff spot in the hyper-competitive West. The Predators often don’t have much to work with but manage to be there in the end thanks to the coaching of Barry Trotz. In the end, however, I think the Ducks are too strong and once again the Predators will be one and done. Ducks in 7.

So there you have it. My predictions and some (not so coherent) reasons why I have made those predictions. I’ll be back in touch when each conference is done its first round and when I will attempt to break down the second round.