Making NHL Western Conference playoff picks is as difficult as picking between either Olsen Twin (do people still make those jokes?). All but one of these matchups is a handicappers nightmare. Let’s sort through the madness and try and get a grip on reality.
NHL Western Conference Playoff Picks
ANAHEIM DUCKS (+480 to win west) vs. DALLAS STARS (+2600)
There are three teams pretty much favored to win the West, and the Anaheim Ducks are one of them (along with the Blues and Blackhawks). That’s partly why Dallas is the longshot here despite being the eighth seed – nobody believes they’ll get past the Ducks.
Anaheim employs a pretty logical “well if we can’t stop ‘em we might as well score more points” type of game plan that has worked way more than it doesn’t. Jonas Hiller is a more-than-capable goaltender in this regard and the team seems comfortable letting whatever happens on the defensive end happen because they know they can get it back on the offensive side.
The Ducks aren’t the best team in NHL Western Conference playoff picks, nor are they the most complete. But they might very well be the team to beat, especially with the emotional ammunition of Teemu Selanne’s final playoff run. Matchup wise this is a squash and I don’t even expect Dallas to get a single win.
Series Prediction: Anaheim in 4
SAN JOSE SHARKS (+425) vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS (+675)
The Kings are simply built for the playoffs. That’s why getting there has always been their priority. With fantastic depth at center, the Kings match up really well with the highly touted Sharks but everything Los Angeles does well relies on Jonathan Quick being amazing. Quick is certainly one of the best in the world – and undoubtedly one of the most mentally tough – but the Kings have often relied on him to bail them out of bad situations.
Sorry but I just don’t feel comfortable taking them in my NHL Western Conference playoff picks under those circumstances. I understand that there’s more to the Kings than that, but the idea that they’re “built for the playoffs” is flat out based on the fact that Quick has been bananas in the playoffs. Goalies can break at any given moment (re: Olympics).
The San Jose Sharks have a nasty habit of flaming out in the playoffs despite all of their talent, and this year pretty much looks like it’ll be the status quo for them in this regard. They’ve only been knocked out in this stage twice in their last 10 playoff appearances. I don’t like taking the Sharks long term in anything ever, but in this series I prefer them in seven. Time is running out for Joe Thornton and he won’t have forgotten losing to the Kings and Quick last year in the semifinals.
Series Prediction: San Jose in 7
COLORADO AVALANCHE (+695) vs. MINNESOTA WILD (+1800)
There is no bigger surprise from this past NHL season than the Colorado Avalanche who are in the thick of things when it comes to NHL Western Conference playoff picks. The public loves them as a long term play, and everyone is piling on to watch them crush the Minnesota Wild. This team believes in Patrick Roy’s coaching as much he believes in them, and as long as there’s enough passion and fuel power for both teams they’ll be just fine in this series.
Series Prediction: Colorado in 5
ST. LOUIS BLUES (+430) vs. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (+400)
There is literally no way to gauge this series in my NHL Western Conference playoffs picks with a semblance of confidence. St. Louis has been my favorite take in the west for the last five months, but have been decimated by a rash of untimely injuries. Fortunately, they should get most of their studs back.
The Blues have been one of the sturdiest teams in the NHL, ranking in the top-7 offensively and boasting perhaps the best overall defensive team in the league. Acquiring Ryan Miller felt like the franchise altering move they’ve desperately and patiently waited to make, and while the Blues finished 3-7 SU in their last 10 games it seems like they prioritized health and rest over winning down the stretch
There’s a sense around the league that Chicago has been a bit lazy this season. When you have so much talent, and stand as defending champions, I suppose you’re entitled to play however you want. Chicago is perhaps the most complete team in the league…when they want to be. My problem with taking Chicago right now is that they haven’t seem to be as stiff defensively as they were in past seasons where they won the cup.
St. Louis has been itching to get in to the playoffs for a long time and are bound to make a ton of noise. There is no louder statement they can make than by shutting up the defending champs. I’m more than willing to bet on a team that has produced at insane levels in spite of their talent than make an NHL Western Conference playoff pick on a team that has taken its talent and success for granted.
Series Prediction: St. Louis in 6