Western Conference Playoff Preview

Calgary Flames Vs. Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche have a lot of very interesting high-end talent. I can’t tell how good they are, they’ve been stockpiling top drafted superstars for a while now. It doesn’t always translate on the ice. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and now Mikko Rantanen are now elite players. The D has a high scoring leader in Tyson Barrie and some good soldiers in the trenches like Ian Cole and Erik Johnson. That’s all well and good but I really think Calgary is just too strong for them. They have one of the best defences in the league and they have one of the best scoring lines in the league. They’re a bit iffy in net, but so are the Avalanche. I don’t think they’ll have an answer for Johnny Hockey’s magic or Matt Tkachuk’s annoyance.

Flames in 5

Las Vegas Golden Knights Vs. San Jose Sharks

The Golden Knights went to the finals last year, lost nobody, and added Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone. The Sharks didn’t exactly rest on their laurels either, picking up prize free agent Erik Karlsson. Karlsson’s been a bit of a disappointment in San Jose. I’m certainly disappointed as a pool guy who burned a high draft pick on him. Las Vegas’ investment in these players didn’t result in them shooting up the standings, actually finishing 16 points worse this year. I’m going to attribute that to losing the element of surprise. VGK is still a deep team, and Marc Andre Fleury can steal games and series. The different team’s culture and history might play into things as well. Las Vegas has a rep for being the most fun place in the NHL to play, with low expectations and tons of success early. San Jose is still one of the nicer places to play being perennially competitive and favorable climate. However, their team identity as perpetual bridesmaid is one they have yet to overcome.

Golden Knights in 6

Nashville Predators Vs. Dallas Stars

 I’m not wild on this matchup, as I have a soft spot for both teams. The Stars bizarrely shat on their top superstars around the midseason mark, which apparently worked? As the stars worked down the stretch to seize one of the final playoff spots late. While that was going on Ben Bishop quietly led the league in Goals Against Average. Great young defencemen like Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg certainly helped with that. The Stars won’t be taking home the William Jennings Trophy for the lowest GAA, apparently the New York Islanders goalie carousel stole that one out from under Bishop. I feel that’s a good analogy for this series. I don’t think Dallas D’ is better than Nashville’s. I’d take PK Subban and Roman Josi over Heiskanen and Klingberg. I’d probably take Pekka Rinne over Bishop. I’m definitely taking the Predators over the Stars.

Preds in 5

(apropos of nothing – I’d really love to see a Goalie fight between the 6’5” Pekka Rinne and the 6’7” Ben Bishop)

Winnipeg Jets Vs. Saint Louis Blues

The Jets would be wise to turn this series into a blazing guns shooting gallery. Both teams boast depth and marquee players on defence. Vladimir Tarasenko might be the best forward in this series, but after that the next couple are all Jets. Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele are elite leaders in this league, and Kyle Connor and Patrik laine have the tools to become them. The big difference maker could be goaltending. Jordan Binnington has been an absolute world beater since taking over the St. Louis net from the disappointing Jake Allen. In order for the Blues to win Binnington will have to steal the series. That’s not to say Connor Hellebuyck has been a disappointment. No one faced more rubber than the Jets backstop, but he’s more of a solid dependable guy than a highway robbery type.

Jets in 7 over Blues