B/R NHL Community's Playoff Prediction Compilation: Western Conference

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IApril 15, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02:  Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings flips the puck during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 2, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Red Wings defeated the Coyotes 4-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Since the first round of the 2010 NHL playoffs was finally set last Sunday night, Bleacher Report has been utterly flooded with articles and slide shows with predictions after predictions.

Some previewed all the series; others focused on one conference's slate or just one best-of-seven battle. Some just gave their predictions and games won in; others wrote out a 500-word preview including each team's keys to winning the series.

Some of us entered our predictions "old school" style, using the regular prose format; others incorporated multimedia a bit more and spaced out each series' pick in a different slide. Some of us made cases for an unexpected upset; others went with the flow, and, therefore, the more likely predictions, at least on paper.

Most B/R writers gave just their first-round predictions; however, a few were brave enough to set up their ideal bracket all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

But there was one thing that all of us did...we let the world know our opinion.

And here is where all of those opinions, ideas, judgments, outlooks, previews, and predictions come together—in one big article recapping Bleacher Report's NHL Community's predictions as a whole.

Looking through the article archives, I found 29 writers (including myself) who had put in at least one prediction on one series in an article and published it for the world to see.

Please note that I only included your prediction if you also specified how many games the series would be won in. (No less than four, no more than seven: Don't be ridiculous, people.)

Thirteen of us made our first-round picks on all eight first-round series in both conferences. Six others made their predictions on just one conference's set of four first-round battles. All of the other contributors wrote previews only on three or fewer of the eight total series.

The two-part article first began yesterday, when B/R chipped in their opinions on how they projected the Eastern Conference series to play out. You can read that article in its entirety at this link .

In today's installment, we'll take a look at B/R's perspective on the four Western Conference series, facing off tonight.

There were oddball upset predictions, and there were those who called all the favorites as the winner of the series.

There was...well, about everything you can imagine, all scattered through seven pages of the NHL community article archives.

However, there was one thing that was uniform and standard in every article. They introduced their predictions or preview...and then they got down to business.

...Just like we're about to do write now in this 2010 edition of Bleacher Report's NHL Community's compiled first-round predictions.

(1) San Jose Sharks (113 pts) vs. (8) Colorado Avalanche (95 pts)

Season Series: Sharks earned five points, Avalanche earned four points

This interesting series brings a storyline we don't see very often on the first round stage.

The battle pits a top-seeded Sharks team that has such low expectations for the playoffs it's almost as if they consider themselves the eight seed instead against a Colorado squad who has almost no postseason experience and wasn't even expecting to come close to reaching the playoffs.

San Jose has reached the playoffs 12 of their first 17 years since entering the NHL, however, they've made it to the West Finals only once. Recently, they've had even more of a history of being playoff pressure chokers, especially in their loss to eighth-seeded Anaheim in last year's first round. However, it seems hard to doubt the top-line pairing of Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Joe Thornton against the Avs' inexperienced, star-less group.

In goal will also be an interesting battle, as Evgeny Nabokov, who was disastrously overworked this season and has struggled of late, faces off with Colorado's surprising savior, Craig Anderson.

In the long run, not enough of us could go with another upset of the Sharks, and San Jose ended up cruising through our poll. However, as Joe Mikoli and Steve Thompson were quick to point out, this series is sure to raise plenty of questions.

Bleacher Report Community Pick: Sharks in six games (votes for San Jose: 14 of 16 total)

Mark Jones' Pick: Sharks in six games

(2) Chicago Blackhawks (112 pts) vs. (7) Nashville Predators (100 pts)

Season Series: Blackhawks earned eight points, Predators earned four points

This season, Nashville was perhaps the most under-the-radar team in the NHL, despite consistently having one of the top six or seven records in the league until the final few weeks, and even then put up a 6-3-1 record in their last ten games heading into the postseason.

However, the young history of the Pred's unstable tenure in Tennessee has also never brought a playoff series win to Nashville, and that once again should be a feat hard to come by in a brutal matchup against Chicago. The Hawks not only won the season series with the Predators, but dominated around the conference, falling just one point short of the top seed in the West.

The 'Hawks top line trio of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Teows, and Patrick Sharp may be brilliant, but perhaps an even tougher challenge for the Predators' conservative style will be to solve netminder Anti Neimi, who blew away Christobal Huet for Chicago's starting job with a .912 save percentage, 2.25 goals-against average, and spectacular 26-7-4 record.

Simply put, Nashville may be flying undetected, but the Hawks are simply too talented to let them slip by into the conference semi-finals.

Bleacher Report Community Prediction: Blackhawks in five games (Votes for Chicago: 15 out of 15 total)

Mark Jones' Prediction: Blackhawks in four games

(3) Vancouver Canucks (103 pts) vs. (6) Los Angeles Kings (101 pts)

Season Series: Canucks earned six points, Kings earned three points

Despite their difference in seedings, Vancouver and Los Angeles were, in truth, only two points apart in the standings.

The key matchup here will be the Kings' offense, most notably Anze Kopitar, who has 81 points in 82 games this season, against veteran Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who did win 40 games this season but only with a .913 save percentage. 

On the other end of the ice will be another matchup. Given that the Canucks are "...desperately trying to prove that they are one of the elite teams in the conference," as Steve Thompson put it, it may come down to the fact of how well the impressive Sedin twins, who were the top two scorers for Vancouver this season with 197 points, fare against Jonathan Quick.

Quick, who was one of the three goaltenders for the 2010 Winter Olympics Team USA squad, was a major part of the Kings shocking success story this season.

In the long run, it appears Bleacher Report does side with the favorites and, in turn, the far more experienced team as well. However, with only one writer (Tab Bamford) predicting a series decided in less than six games, it wasn't without a bit of controversy, especially from my standpoint.

...But it's just a hunch, I think....

Bleacher Report Community Prediction: Canucks in seven games (Votes for Vancouver: 10 out of 15 total)

Mark Jones' Prediction: Kings in seven games

(4) Phoenix Coyotes (107 pts) vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings (102 pts)

Season Series: Coyotes earned four points, Red Wings earned six points

Even though the point totals point in one direction and the seedings are as close as they can possibly get, the voting for the most anticipated of the four Western Conference series was very lopsided.

Forget Ilya Bryzgalov, who was third in the NHL with 42 wins and 10-3-2 since the Olympic Break. Forget the 13 different Coyotes with more than 25 scoring points. Forget Phoenix's brilliant trade deadline moves.

Basically, Bleacher Report told the world they, basically, forgot all of that in deciding this series. Instead, they sided with a rookie goaltender, a group full of past-their-prime players, and a team that, in the long run, is the lower seed in the series.

The funny thing about this, though?

I went with the Red Wings, too. And if anyone thinks they need an explanation why, just take a little look around the NHL...

Bleacher Report Community Pick: Red Wings in six games (Votes for Detroit: 16 out of 17 total)

Mark Jones' Pick: Red Wings in six games

Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the Carolina Hurricanes. In his 20 months so far with the site, he has written over 185 articles and received over 125,000 total reads.

Visit his profile to read more.


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