Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Mug: Part 2

Posted: April 30, 2013 by ajaysharma18 in Uncategorized

NHL_2013_StanleyCupPlayoffs_English_Primary

Here is part 2 of our opening round predictions.  For part 2 we will turn our attention to the Western Conference, where the match ups are even tighter than in the East.  The West is stockpiled with highly skilled teams and it will be very intriguing to watch the opening round as it will give the fans a well deserved treat.  Let’s see if we can identify certain factors that give teams an upper hand.

Chicago Blackhawks(1) vs. Minnesota Wild(8)

Chicago had an unconscious start to their season.  It seemed as if they would never lose, and when they did lose, it was not by much.  This team has an abundance of talent throughout their lineup.  What has changed this year as opposed to last is their goaltending.  Corey Crawford and Ray Emery were the best goaltending tandem in the league.  They helped backstop the Hawks to a Presidents Trophy.  There is too much to write about how good this team really is…Minnesota will soon find this out.  The Wild made strides in the offseason by signing Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, and during the season trading for Jason Pominville.  They are a solid team, however I just don’t see them matching up to the Hawks in a seven game series.  The Hawks, led by premier centre Jonathan Toews and sniper Patrick Kane, have been a force all season and I suspect that they will continue marching on through round one.  Prediction: Chicago in 5

Anaheim Ducks(2) vs. Detroit Red Wings(7)

Anaheim, much like Chicago, had a great start to the season.  They looked like a complete 360 of the basement dwellers that they were last year.  Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have had fabulous years, leading to them signing max contracts that will more than pay for their beachfront houses in Cali.  Goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth have been really good, with Fasth taking the NHL by storm for a portion of the season.  On the other hand there is Detroit, the most consistent team in the NHL since I can remember.  They clawed their way into the playoffs and now can be considered a threat.  Their not as good as past seasons, but with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg anything is possible.  Offensively I would say the matchup is pretty even, however the slight edge goes to Detroit in the defence column.  Special teams will be a key component to this series, as I feel the team who stays out of the box will inevitably win the series.  Jimmy Howard has been solid between the pipes for Detroit down the stretch, and will be relied upon heavily to withstand the Ducks juggernaut offence.  One of many tough match ups in the West.  Prediction: Detroit in 7

Vancouver Canucks(3) vs. San Jose Sharks(6)

Both these teams are in familiar territory.  They have been playoff mainstays for the past few seasons and are always expected to do great things.  Vancouver added depth to their team by adding veteran Derek Roy from Dallas at the deadline.  Offence is not an issue with the Nucks, but Defence definitely is.  The Loss of Christian Ehrhoff has been a hole that is yet to be filled.  Goaltending is always the talk of the town in BC, which is an unnecessary distraction come playoff time.  On the other side of the ice is a team that is well known as a regular season team.  So much talent, yet can’t crack the code to making it to the finals.  The Sharks matchup well against the Canucks, evident by their regular season record against them.  Despite the negatives, Vancouver is still a really good team, with allot of depth and experience.  Antii Niemi had a Vezina type year, and if he continues his hot streak it’s quite possible the Sharks win this series.  Logan Couture continues to grow as a player, and in this series he will definitely leave his mark.  Vancouver narrowly won their division this year, and their flaws will surely be exposed.  Another one of those toss up series.  Let’s be adventurous. Prediction: San Jose in 7

St. Louis Blues(4) vs. Los Angeles Kings(5)

The Defending champs open up their title defence against the stingy St. Louis Blues.  The Kings have virtually the same roster as last year, with the addition of defenders Keaton Ellerby and Jake Muzzin.  Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick had a rough off season, but judging by his playoff performance last year, one would think his best hockey is yet to come.  What makes LA so good is their sound team defence and ability to limit their turnovers while forcing an opponents turnovers.  Anze Kopitar, in my view, is the most underrated player in the league, and he will be break out of his mini cold streak that he has had going on.  St. Louis took a giant step forward last year, coming within just a few points of the Presidents Trophy.  This year was a step back.  Goaltending issues plagued this team for much of the season, and GM Doug Armstrong looked to revamp his blue line…boy did he ever succeed.  Trading for Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold has given the Blues one of the best top 4 defence pairings in the NHL.  It will be tough for LA to crack the wall, but they are more than capable.  In terms of goaltending, Brian Elliot has solidified the starting job come game 1, however a slip up could lead to Jaroslav Halak or Jake Allen taking over.  I believe this is the hardest series to call.  Both teams are very disciplined and have a wealth of coaching experience.  The Kings will win if they can cause havoc along the boards in the Blues end and get pucks at Brain Elliot as often as possible.  St. Louis will have to capitalize on any good scoring chances they get, as LA does not give up many of them.  Jonathan Quick will surely bounce back. and if he doesn’t then there’s always Jonathan Bernier.  It can go either way, but it’s hard to bet against the defending champs.  Prediction: Los Angeles in 6

By: Ajay Sharma- Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

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