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Western Conference First Round Playoff Preview

The 2016-17 NHL Playoffs are underway tonight and promise to satisfy all your goal scoring, hip checking, and Cup raising needs. In this article, we will take a look at the Western Conference and all the excitement on tap, as these eight teams will battle it out to claim the Clarence S. Campbell trophy and become the face of the West in the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Final.

(1) Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-9) vs (WC2) Nashville Predators (41-29-12)

Overview: The Chicago Blackhawks were the top team in the Western Conference during the season and now face the Nashville Predators, who secured the final wild card spot in the west by seven points. The Blackhawks once again find themselves near the top as the favorites to win the Western Conference and have been a nightmare for the Predators this season.

Head-to-Head Statistics

Season Series: 4-1 Chicago

Goals: 20-13 Chicago

Power Play: 6/15 Chicago = 40.0% – 5/16 Predators = 31.2%

Standout Team Statistics

Chicago: 9th in goals with 240, 2nd in penalty minutes, and 11th in goals against.

Nashville: 15th in goals with 220, 13th in shooting percentage at 9.31%, and 24th in penalty minutes.

Team Leaders (Goals-Assists-Points)

Chicago: Patrick Kane (34 goals, 55 assists & 89 points)

Nashville: Viktor Arvidsson (31 goals) – Ryan Johansen (47 assists & 61 points)

X-Factor For Each Team

Predators’ Defense – The Predators’ defense is arguably the best part of their game. Led by P.K. Subban, Nashville’s backend has complimented goaltender Pekka Rinne throughout the season. They play a solid “keep you out” style at the blue line, but with Chicago’s offense, they will have their hands tied up. One large chunk of how this series plays out is if the Predator defense can withstand the Blackhawks’ attack.

A Player To Watch Out For – Artem Anisimov, if healthy, could be a major contributor for the Blackhawks during this series. Teamed with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, Anisimov would be given just enough room for his two-way game to excel. I look for him to provide many key moments for Chicago in this series. The forward has been suffering a lower-body injury so much of this depends on his availability.

Prediction: Blackhawks in five games.

Game Schedule

Game 1: Thursday, April 13th – 8:00PM on NBCSN

Game 2: Saturday, April 15th – 8:00PM on NBC

Game 3: Monday, April 17th – 9:30PM on CNBC

Game 4: Thursday, April 20th – TBD on TBD

Game 5 (If Necessary): Saturday, April 22nd – TBD on TBD

Game 6 If Necessary): Monday, April 24th – TBD on TBD

Game 7 (If Necessary): Wednesday, April 26th – TBD on TBD

(2) Edmonton Oilers (47-26-9) vs (3) San Jose Sharks (46-29-7)

Overview: Led by captain Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers have clinched their first playoff berth since 2006 and now the San Jose Sharks stand in the way. Disgruntled at their exit from the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Final last year, the Sharks are hungry to get back in the spotlight and to do that, they’ll need to play the evil queen to Edmonton’s Cinderella story.

Head-to-Head Statistics

Season Series: 3-1-1 Edmonton

Goals: 16-14 Edmonton

Last Playoff Meeting: Oilers won 4-2 in 2006.

Standout Team Statistics

Edmonton: 8th in goals for with 243, 8th in goals against, and 5th in power play with 22.9%.

San Jose: 5th in goals against, 4th in penalty minutes, and 25th in power play at 16.7%.

Team Leaders (Goals-Assists-Points)

Edmonton: Connor McDavid (30 goals, 70 assists, & 100 points)

San Jose: Brent Burns (29 goals, 47 assists, & 76 points)

X-Factor For Each Team

The Connor McDavid Factor: This will be the young captain’s first appearance in the playoffs. His second season has seen him amass the hundred-point total and he is destined for great things, but will his inexperience be his downfall? I do not believe so, as having two great linemates in Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon, the young captain will help take some of the pressure off. San Jose will need to do everything they can to smother this offensive threat.

San Jose Injuries: The San Jose Sharks have been plagued with serious injuries to close out the season. Forwards Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are both on the shelf and their status for this series is unknown. This is a major hit to the Sharks as these players are third and forth scorers on the club and provide the grit and grind style that San Jose thrives on. Not to mention they provide key experience that the Sharks will need if they plan on making their stay in the playoffs a lengthy one.

Prediction: Oilers in six games.

Game Schedule

Game 1: Wednesday, April 12th – 10:00PM on NBC

Game 2: Friday, April 14th – 10:30PM on NBC

Game 3: Sunday, April 16th – 10:00PM on NBC

Game 4: Tuesday, April 18th – 10:00PM on NBC

Game 5 (If Necessary): Friday, April 20th – TBS on TBS

Game 6 If Necessary): Sunday, April 22nd – TBD on TBD

Game 7 (If Necessary): Tuesday, April 24th – TBD on TBD

(1) Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13) vs (WC1) Calgary Flames (45-33-4)

Overview: These teams are not too fond of each other. The last game they played ended with cheap shots and a brawl that was the stuff of wrestling lore. Not only that, but it was at the hands of the Ducks that Calgary was eliminated from their last playoff appearance back in 2015. In the terms of hockey, this match-up will be Anaheim’s defense against Calgary’s offense and will provide enough fireworks to illuminate the Western Conference.

Head-to-Head Statistics

Season Series: 4-1 Anaheim

Goals: 17-14 Anaheim

Key Game: While Calgary did beat Anaheim 8-3 once this season, the Ducks bottled up the Flames in winning the other four meetings.

Standout Team Statistics

Anaheim: 3rd in goals against, 29th in penalty minutes, and 4th in penalty kill at 84.7%.

Calgary: 16th in goals for with 222, 30th in penalty minutes, and 10th in power play at 20.2%.

Team Leaders (Goals-Assists-Points)

Anaheim: Rickard Rakell (33 goals) – Ryan Getzlaf (58 assists & 73 points)

Chicago: Sean Monahan (27 goals) – Johnny Gaudreau (43 assists & 61 points)

X-Factor For Each Team

A Tale Of Two Goalies: In this series, we will see more stalemate match-ups than any other in the Western Conference. What could possibly be the deciding factor is these two goaltenders. The Flames have Brian Elliott, who struggled early in the season, but has found his groove as the season came to it’s close. The Ducks have John Gibson, who was chased away from last year’s playoffs by Nashville and now faces his chance at redemption. It is in my opinion that this series will depend on these two netminders.

Prediction: Anaheim in five games.

Game Schedule

Game 1: Thursday, April 13th – 10:30PM on NBCSN

Game 2: Saturday, April 15th – 10:30PM on NBC

Game 3: Monday, April 17th – 10:00PM on NBC

Game 4: Wednesday, April 19th – 10:00PM on NBC

Game 5 (If Necessary): Saturday, April 22nd – TBD on TBD

Game 6 If Necessary): Monday, April 24th – TBD on TBD

Game 7 (If Necessary): Wednesday, April 26th – TBD on TBD

(2) Minnesota Wild (49-25-8) vs (3) St Louis Blues (46-29-7)

Overview: The Minnesota Wild were fired from a cannon to start the 2016-17 NHL Season, but a nightmare of a month in March that saw them go 4-10-2 put fear into the heart of the Wild faithful. St Louis however, went 11-2-2 in March and only lost one game in April. Will Minnesota reclaim their swagger or has the will of the Blues become too much to bear?

Head-to-Head Statistics

Season Series: 3-2 St Louis

Goals: 14-10 Minnesota

Power Play: 1/13 Minnesota = 07.6% – 1/11 St Louis = 09.0%

Standout Team Statistics

Minnesota: 2nd in goals for with 263, 7th in goals allowed, and 9th in power play with 21.0%

St Louis: 3rd in penalty kill, 8th power play at 21.3%, and 12th in goals for with 233.

Team Leaders (Goals-Assists-Points)

Minnesota: Eric Staal (28 goals) – Mikael Granlund (43 assists & 69 points)

St Louis: Vladmir Tarasenko (39 goals, 36 assists, & 75 points)

X-Factor For Each Team

Tarasenko vs Koivu: Two top forwards who both produce exceptionally for their respective clubs. How could this not be a fun match-up to take a magnifying glass to? While Tarasenko seems to be the more offensively producing forward with 0.48 goals and 0.44 assists a game, he will have a tough time getting around the defensive mastermind that is Koivu. Koivu suppresses shots, which is something that Tarasenko excels at, better than anyone else in the NHL. This match-up comes down to Tarasenko scoring a plethora of goals or Koivu making him absent. I believe that you can’t keep a top scorer down and it will only be a matter of time before Tarasenko breaks out and racks up some goals. Will it be enough to sway favor for his team or not is the question.

Prediction: St Louis in seven games.

Game Schedule

Game 1: Wednesday, April 12th – 9:30PM on NBCSN

Game 2: Friday, April 14th – 8:00PM on NBCSN

Game 3: Sunday, April 16th – 3:00PM on NBC

Game 4: Wednesday, April 19th – 9:30PM on NBCSN

Game 5 (If Necessary): Saturday, April 22nd – TBD on TBD

Game 6 If Necessary): Monday, April 24th – TBD on TBD

Game 7 (If Necessary): Wednesday, April 26th – TBD on TBD

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