Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Matchups are Set In the West

Actually, the matchups are set in both conferences, but I'm only going over the West today. I might be doing a little devil's advocate work here, and pick some underdogs. Unlike ESPN, which makes for some pretty boring articles. Ok, they picked the Sharks, but as I talked about before, that's hardly going out on a limb.

Nashville vs. San Jose - as a Sharks fan it's tough to accurately handicap this series, so I have to go with the Sharks. They have the two hottest players in the league, against a disciplined team with a scrub goalie and several injuries. And their offense isn't that great either. Pop quiz- who has more points- Patrick Marleau or Paul Kariya? Hint: it's not Kariya. The bad news for the Preds is that Marleau isn't even on the top line. Don't get me wrong, the Preds will be a pain in the ass to play against, with Brendan Witt, Kimmo Timmonen and co. on the blue line. But I think our relatively inexperienced blue line coupled with the best goaltending duo in the NHL will be able to solve their offense. And no one in the league right now can stop Thornton and Cheechoo.

Calgary vs. Anaheim - This entire series hinges on one player - Mikka Kiprusoff. If the Kipper can look like he did in the 2003-2004 playoffs (and the regular season this year), the Flames will win. If he stumbles just a bit, the Ducks will steal some games, and the series will be on. My guess is that the complete lack of Calgary scoring will bite them bad, and the Ducks will be able to squeak at least one game out of the first two in Calgary. Anaheim is also a very good team at home, and I could see the series going back to Calgary for game 6 with the Ducks up 3-1. The Ducks' top line of Selanne, McDonald and Kunitz is very good, and it's not all Selanne. Another pop quiz: who has more goals- Andy McDonald or Marleau? Ok, that's cheap - they're tied with 34. I'm going with my gut on this one and picking the Ducks. It won't be a cakewalk by any means; it's going to go at least 6 games, and if the Ducks win, they'll be very beat-up for the conference semis. But I'm still going to be a man and pick Anaheim.

Dallas vs. Colorado - As much as I want to pick Colorado, I can't. The loss of Forsberg, the lack of consistent scoring from Tanguay and Hejduk, and a defensive corps of castoffs like Bob Bougner and Patrice Brisebois adds up to too many mistakes against a solid Stars team. Jason Arnott has been a force, Mike Modano, while rickety, still has some of the best moves in the NHL, and Sergei Zubov has got to be a Norris finalist. If Colorado gets another Conn Smythe performance out of Jose Theodore they might have a shot, but that's a big if considering Theodore hasn't had any quality minutes in months. I doubt this series will even go 6.

Detroit vs. Edmonton - You can say what you want about Manny Legace playoff experience, but the whole Jussi Markkanen-Dwayne Roloson goalie tandem isn't exactly taking the league by storm. Detroit's special teams play just too good, and they don't have any holes other than general age. Without any explosive stars on the Oilers, they don't have much of a chance. This could easily be a sweep.

Feel free to blast me in the comments section, and I'll be back later this week to go over the Eastern Conference.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I'll keep my thoughts brief about the first round in the West.
The Sharks had better beat Nashville, or the hot streak they've been on will be totally meaningless. Sharks in 5.
The Ducks/Flames series has the potential to be one for the ages - could easily have two or three multiple overtime games. The Flames lack of scoring depth will be their downfall. Ducks in 6.
Dallas is the best team in the conference. Colorado's goaltending situation has not been resolved with Theodore. Stars sweep.
Detroit's powerplay has been deadly, but their average age is up there. Edmonton's D should beat up on the Wings forwards, and Edmonton's team speed will serve them well on home ice. Wings in 7 (but it could go either way).