Sunday, April 08, 2018

Western Conference Playoff Preview

The President's Trophy winners, the Nashville Predators, will get the last minute team into the playoffs in the west, the Colorado Avalanche.  Which has some pretty good playoff match-ups on the playoff pool sheet, but there are also some tricky picks on there too.

The Predators swept the season series against the Avalanche this season, winning all four games, so the match-up was lopsided in the regular season, but that doesn't always mean anything in the playoffs.

The Avalanche have two pretty big land mines on the selection sheet, as their number one goalie, Semyon Varlamov, is dealing with a knee injury and he has already been ruled out of the opening round.  Defenseman Erik Johnson suffered a significant undisclosed injury as well a week ago and there's no chance he'll be playing either.  If you have the Avalanche to upset the Predators, take these injuries into consideration.

The Cinderella storied team, the Vegas Golden Knights, took the Pacific Division crown, rather handily, but with that, they get the tough assignment of playing against the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the playoffs.  There's nothing easy about this match-up for either side and this could be a big swing match-up in the playoff pool.

The two sides were pretty even through the year, 2-1-1 on each side and the Kings got the better of the Knights on the scoresheet, 11-10.

The Golden Knights have one key injury on their page, forward David Perron in Box 4, he's day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, likely to be ready for Game 1, while Jake Muzzin is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, less likely to play in Game 1, but not ruled out yet.

The match-up between the Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild, the 2-3 match-up in the Central Division, was one of the earliest series to be determined down the stretch.  The high-powered Jets will have their hands full with a very determined and experienced Wild side, which could really pull some teams apart on the selection sheet.

The Jets did win the season series, taking three out of four games from the Wild, and they outscored them pretty well in those occasions too.  Although the season series might have gone one way more than the other, I would go so far as to think that this could be the most exciting of the four series in the west.

There are a couple of big injuries to the Wild's blueline, which may cause some issues, as Ryan Suter was injured late in the season and he required ankle surgery, so he's done for the playoffs.  Jared Spurgeon, two boxes down, has been skating of late, coming back from a hamstring injury and he is likely to play at some point in this series.

As much as the series above will be exciting, the Ducks and the Sharks could be the one that goes right to the death.  My pick for the most likely to go seven games and then really take the hockey pool apart.  Are you going to bet on those hated Anaheim Ducks or can you truly believe in those San Jose Sharks?

The Sharks won three out of four games in their season series, but it was pointed out, that three of the games in this series went to the shootout, a luxury that neither team will have going forward.  This series will be physical and it could see some overtimes.

Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler is also out for the playoffs, as he suffered a major shoulder injury late on this season and his timetable would possibly have him back in the later stages of the playoffs, but there is no guarantee.  Goalie John Gibson was dealing with an upper-body injury in the last week of the year, he's day-to-day with a good chance of starting Game 1.

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