NHL Playoffs, Western Conference scoop

Now that we’ve laid out our Eastern Conference predictions complete with a few sexy pics of our Tampa Bay Lightning girl, it’s time for our fearless thoughts on the wild, Wild West.

Vancouver Canucks (1) vs Chicago Blackhawks (8)

This is not the same Blackhawks team having lost Kris Versteeg, Ben Eager, Victor Stalberg and most importantly, Dustin Byfuglein, who really provided a lot of grit to this Blackhawks team in their Stanley Cup run last year scoring 11 goals, five of those game winners.

The Hawks face a Canucks team who they have knocked out in the past two seasons in the playoffs. This time however, Vancouver is just too damn good, finishing first in goals, (264) first in power play percentage, and also finishing the regular season as the hardest team to score against.

To recap Vancouver has the prolific goal scoring ability of Ryan Kesler, the prolific passing of Daniel, and Henrik Sedin, and a number of guys who can lead the rush from the backline, like Canucks defender Christian Ehrhoff.

The Blackhawks on the other hand, are a shell of their former self.

With the Green Men on the ‘Nucks side and a good rivalry between these two squads, this one is closer than it really should be, but in the end…

Canucks in 6

San Jose Sharks (2) vs Los Angeles Kings (7)

I was going to call this one for Los Angeles and say that San Jose will continue their acrimonious distinction of being first round choking dog in the playoffs. Initially, I believed that Dustin Brown, who can change your game with his physical, aggressive play, and crease crashing ability, could be a major x-factor in this series.

Not only that, but Wayne Simmonds has a great developing game, twenty-one year-old Drew Doughty’s game is already there, as he is one of the finest young defenseman in the league, and Jonathan Quick might be the NHL’s most underrated goalie.

And yet the loss of Anze Kopitar is huge. Had he not been injured I believe the Kings would have won this series, but such is the nature of the NHL. With Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and possible rookie-of-the-year Logan Couture, the Sharks just have too many weapons.

Sharks in 6

Detroit Red Wings (3) vs Phoenix Coyotes (6)

In what is usually a half-empty stadium, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett does a great job keeping his lines firing on all-cylinders despite having a breakout goal scorer.

On the other side, between Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, the Red Wings have many of them, plus a guy who continues to somehow defy age and be one of the most fundamentally sound defenseman in the league in Nicklas Lindstrom.

Phoenix on paper should not win this one. Not only can the Coyotes not match the Red Wings goal scoring ability, but they also have a penalty kill that is ranked 26th in the league.

Not much sense picking the Coyotes here, but this is the NHL playoffs, a place-in-time that sometimes defies logic. I picked the Coyotes against the Red Wings last season, and I’ll probably get burned for it again here, but with a good checking line of Taylor Pyatt, Vernon Fiddler and Lee Stempniak, a very deep and veteran defense, and the return of Martin Hanzel at center, I think Phoenix pulls the shocker.

Coyotes in 7

Anaheim Ducks (4) vs Nashville Predators (5)

Let’s keep this simple. Both of these teams have great defense, and on a team with not much ‘wow’ factor, Shea Weber is a lot of fun to watch out of Nashville. Still, one team has Corey Perry, a guy who scored 50 goals in the regular season, and one team does not.

Ducks in 5

Western Conference Final- Canucks over Ducks in 6

The best top-to-bottom team in the NHL in Vancouver will finally take it home to play Boston in the Stanley Cup Final.

The San Jose Sharks have a proud history of playoff choking, one that almost, almost rivals my Washington Capitals. In the Kings, we have the perfect team to set the Sharks up for the acrimonious distinction of losing once again in the first round.

Used with permission of the author.

Based in Washington, D.C. Michael Hoffman has covered D.C. sports for numerous publications and is the Washington Redskins columnist and Washington Capitals columnist for Examiner.com. Hoffman is also an NFL and NHL contributor to Sports Climax.

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