NHL Playoffs: A Look at the Western Conference

Ian ZymarakisSenior Analyst IApril 7, 2008

What many call the toughest postseason to get through physically and mentally is finally upon us. The Stanley Cup playoffs are here and there are many matchups that will be exciting in both the Western and Eastern Conferences.

Will Detroit finally get back to the Stanley Cup Finals?

Will Ovechkin and Crosby meet up in the playoffs?

Could the Finals be between two of the original six teams?

Nobody knows for sure, but here are my selections from the Western Conference from the first round all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.


1st Round


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Nashville Predators: Detroit Wins Series 4-1

In a series that will see two rivals from the same division go at it, it appears from first glance that Detroit will run away with it quite easily.

I don't think it will be easy, although I do have a 4-1 series for Detroit. I think it will be really competitive.

The Predators are a team that was almost forced to move out of Nashville due to lack of attendance. They also seemed to clean house a bit this past offseason, but have returned to the playoffs nevertheless.

Detroit is led by their solid defense with Lidstrom and Rafalski and the goaltending of Hasek and Osgood.

The question is, will Detroit's European leadership be able to hold up in the grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

We will see. I have Detroit moving on in five games.


(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Calgary Flames: San Jose Wins Series 4-2

In a series that will be extremely competitive and very physical I see San Jose escaping and moving on, led by the goaltending of Evgeni Nabokov.

The question is, will Joe Thornton show up for or will he fall flat like he has typically done in past postseasons?

Calgary comes with some superstars of their own including 50-goal Captain Jarome Iginla. Calgary is a very dangerous team; it wouldn't surprise me if they upset San Jose in this series.

I just think that Nabokov will be able to hold off Calgary long enough in games that San Jose will escape with wins.

San Jose advances in six games.


(3) Minnesota Wild vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche: Colorado Wins Series 4-3

In a battle between Northwest rivals, this series will be another physical one.

How far Colorado can go is based on Peter Forsberg's health during the playoffs. He has always been a player who becomes an instant difference-maker in the postseason.

I don't see much difference here as the Avalanche play their best when it matters the most. They will win game seven on the road.

Colorado advances in seven games.


(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Dallas Stars: Anaheim Wins Series 4-1

Anaheim returns once again to defend its title with what seems to be a better roster than they had the previous season. That is a scary thought.

The return of Niedermayer and Selanne helped push Anaheim to the next level after the mid point of the season and will continue to help them in the playoffs.

Dallas goalie, Marty Turco, will play well, but Dallas has been struggling lately. I don't see them being able to get much offense going against this solid defensive squad.

Anaheim advances in five games.


Western Conference Semi-Finals


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche: Detroit Wins Series 4-2

What was once a bitter rivalry in the playoffs will take place once again when the Red Wings and Avalanche meet. They have had some memorable series in the past and this one should be no different.

The European leaders on Detroit continue to surprise everyone and play a physical style of hockey without getting hurt.

Hasek and Osgood will be the determining factor. Although Colorado has two goalies, Jose Theodore and Peter Budaj, they don't know what to expect from either one on any night. Anything can happen.

Detroit shows that they shouldn't be seen as an underrated No. 1 seed and advance to the Western Conference Finals in six games.


(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (4) Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim Wins Series 4-3

In a battle between Pacific Division rivals, this series will be one for the books, with two world class goalies, two solid defenses, and two game-changers on offense.

I see Anaheim's physicality being too much for San Jose to handle in a seven game series; it will finally catch up to them in the seventh and deciding game. Anaheim will go into San Jose and pull out the win on the road.

Anaheim's defense continues on in seven games.


Western Conference Finals


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (4) Anaheim Ducks: Anaheim Wins Series 4-2

In a rematch of last season's Western Conference Finals, the same script will be repeated with the Ducks will advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals once again.

Their leadership is too good and too valuable to do any harm to the team. Plus Giguere is always in a world of his own when the postseason comes around.

Detroit puts up a fight but Anaheim proves to be too physical for them as they become tired and overpowered as the series goes on.

Anaheim wins their second consecutive Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and advances to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Western Conference Playoff MVP: Jean Sebastian Giguere, Goalie, Anaheim Ducks



First Round:

(1) Detroit Red Wings

(2) San Jose Sharks

(4) Anaheim Ducks

(6) Colorado Avalanche

Western Conference Semi-Finals:

(1) Detroit Red Wings

(4) Anaheim Ducks

Western Conference Finals:

(4) Anaheim Ducks


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