Having taken care of the Eastern conference first round predictions yesterday, the following are my predictions for the Western conference as to who will move on to round two in the quest for the cup.
Detroit Redwings Vs Nashville Predators : Detroit in 6
The president's cup winners for 1st overall in the league have been the more dominant team all year as opposed to the "squeaked in by the skin of their teeth" Predators. Detroit is 3rd on the power-play whereas Nashville is 27th, yet Nashville is 3rd on the PK where Detroit is 8th. The big difference is in goals against per game where the Predators let in almost 1 goal per game more than Detroit did during the regular season. The goaltending edge goes to Detroit with a superior tandem of Osgood/Hasek over Nashville's Chris Mason and Dan Ellis.Offensively, there is no question that Detroit has the edge with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lidstrom leading the way, One can't help but assume that they out-score Nashville's Dumont Arnott and Raduloff.
San Jose Sharks Vs Calgary Flames : San Jose in 6
I believe Kiprusoff will steal a few games for the Flames, however San Jose is far more superior on the Penalty kill, as well as the power-play. Although Calgary has won the regular season series 3 games to 1, San Jose has really turned it on down the stretch winning 18 of their last 22 games whereas Calgary played for under .500 in their last 15 games of the season. I look for Joe Thornton to take it to the next level but Jarome Iginla will also lead by example. the key here without a doubt is goaltending and the edge without a doubt goes to the Sharks' Evegeni Nabokov with his 2.14 goals against average and his .910 save percentage, there is even talk about him getting many votes for the Vezina. While Mikka Kiprusoff has not been the Kiprusoff of old, look for him to be at his best and stand on his head and steal a few for Calgary.
Minnesota Wild Vs Colorado Avalanche : Colorado in 7
Yes, I said Colorado. They are my dark horse pick to perhaps even emerge out of the West! It may even be over sooner than this but all is dependant on a few factors. Does the Alumni club of Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic have it in them once again to shine as they did the last time they won a cup together? Is Ryan Smyth healthy enough to play his gritty style that will surely drive the Wild crazy?. Most importantly, will José Theodore, who has shown hints reminiscent of his Vezina trophy winning year in Montreal, continue to provide the same goaltending as he has down the stretch? If the answer to at least 2 of these questions is yes then Colorado runs away with it. While I expect Minnesota to continue playing their, in my opinion, boring, life draining style of "trap" hockey ( I know Jacques, it wins games), look to see the Avalanche try to break this open with a more robust style of play.
Anaheim Ducks Vs Dallas Stars : Anaheim in 5
In my opinion, there is no team more prepared for the playoffs than the Ducks. They are big up front, they are experienced on the blue line, they can fight when they have to and have been involved in 39 one goal games during the season, something that is quite common in the playoffs.They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and will not permit themselves to be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, not to mention that 2 of their best players from last year, Niedermayer and Selanne have not played the full year so they are not as tired as any other player they will meet in the series. Dallas, on the other hand, still has some questions that need to be answered: Is this the year Marty Turco can lead the Stars to the Promised Land? Will the trade deadline acquisition of Brad Richards ( who won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay) finally pay dividends? Can Mike Modano lead the Stars as he once did when he won a cup for this same team? So many questions, but I believe that in this case, Anaheim has the answers.
So the playoffs start tomorrow folks! Enjoy and check back in for game by game analyses as they happen on a daily basis throughout the playoffs.