In this, Part two of my NHL postseason predictions, you will find my Western Conference predictions for the 2008-09 Playoffs. This is by far the most difficult predictions I've had to make, mostly due to the closeness of the standings (and partially because of the fact I follow the East more closely. Once again, I encourage any comments on the predictions I have made!
1. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are showing the Detroit Red Wings that they have some serious competition and they have been doing so all season long. They have an unbelievable home record, with just three losses. San Jose has a tough schedule ahead of them, with seven of their ten remaining games being against playoff-bound teams. Expect them to win the title as first overall in the NHL.
2. Detroit Red Wings
Detroit has always been guaranteed to be one of the top teams, if not the best overall. However, this year it is not a runaway for them. The Sharks are ready to take a bite, just one point back of the Wings. They should win most (if not all) if the eight games they have left, as in six of those eight they will be battling non-playoff teams.
The part that is likely to prevent them from holding onto top spot is goaltending. Both Ty Conklin and Chris Osgood have their share of games where they need to be pulled from playing terrible hockey.
3. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are just three points back of their division rivals, the Calgary Flames, and with one game in hand. The two teams are in a fight for third position. Vancouver should win it. They play six of their final ten on the road, which may be their weakness.
The Canucks are showing more consistency in their last ten games, with a 7-2-1 record, while Calgary has won just four of their previous ten. Also, an advantage is that Roberto Luongo playing strong for the most part.
4. Chicago Black Hawks
The Hawks have been on a bit of a losing streak recently, being just 3-5-2 in their last ten, even after two straight victories. Perhaps a lot of nerves on the youngest team in the league has to do with their shakiness. A sure problem is goaltending.
Chicago has allowed at least three goals in eight of their last ten games. They have valuable inter-conference games ahead: one in New Jersey, and one in Montreal. The Hawks have four crucial games in their remaining ten, with two being against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and a season-ending back-to-back battle with the Red Wings.
5. Calgary Flames
The flames have been on a free-fall as of late. In their previous ten games, they have a 4-6-0 record, including the shutout loss tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are allowing far too many goals, especially when on the road. As a downside for them, five of their last nine will be played away from the Saddledome.
A major potential problem for them is they have one of the toughest schedules left, with all games but two being against those teams fighting for the playoffs and those teams trying to catch them in the standings. Miikka Kiprusoff will likely crack under that type of pressure.
6. Edmonton Oilers
Fighting for there lives to make the playoffs, the Oilers have been showing some signs of life. They may have lost their last two games, but in both cases it was because of amazing goaltending by their opposition. If Dwayne Roloson continues his spectacular play, Edmonton will have a greater shot of winning.
Their biggest challenge will be that six of their final nine games are against playoff-contending teams, including two against the Flames and the Anaheim Ducks. Though most of their games will be played at home, this will not be an advantage for this team. Edmonton's winning percentage is pretty much equal when comparing home versus away, with both being barely about .500.
7. Minnesota Wild
One thing is key when it comes to the Wild: Backstrom has to be on his game. Their schedule is just as difficult as the one the Flames face. Six of their final eight games are versus the teams ahead of them in the standings, and one against the Nashville Stars, who they are currently tied with.
Thankfully for them, only half of their games left are played on the road, where they have a losing record. Had they not been hit by the injury bug, the Wild would already be higher in the standings instead of fighting to make the playoffs. First it was Marian Gaborik, who finally made his return, now it is Mikko Koivu who will miss the next week at the very minimum.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
Looking to make their first ever post-season in their nine-year history, the Blue Jackets have shown their opponents that they have what it takes. Their recent victories include those over top teams, such as Detroit, Boston, and Chicago. They also have one of the hardest remaining schedules, including three games against the St. Louis Blues, who are trying to make the playoffs themselves. They also must face Chicago another two occasions.
It should help that five of their final nine games are to be played at home, where they have a .630 winning percentage. Then there is Steve Mason, the rookie with unbelievable talent who has become the driving force of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In summary, these are the predictions for the Western Conference quarter-finals:
San Jose Sharks (1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (8)
Detroit Red Wings (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (7)
Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. Edmonton Oilers (6)
Chicago Black Hawks (4) vs. Calgary Flames (5)
Please remember that I am no expert in this field, just an avid fan who enjoys of the use of numbers, statistics, and trends.
I only hope that some of my predictions hold true.