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Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs, Quarterfinals Preview

04/13/11

Earlier today, the Black & Blue & Gold staff broke down their picks for the first round in the Eastern Conference. Now, to follow up the second set of regular season recaps and playoff power rankings, here are the staff’s Western Conference quarterfinal selections.

Numbers, schedule, and picks after the jump.

8th Seed Chicago Blackhawks vs 1st Seed Vancouver Canucks

Vulgar Stats Playoff Power Rankings: 1st (VAN), 7th (CHI)
Regular Season Series: VAN wins season series 2-1-1

Phil: The Blackhawks no longer have Roberto Luongo’s nemesis in Dustin Byfuglien patrolling the crease and trolling Canucks fans, which is a huge loss in the title defense. Opening against the best Canucks team of all time with nary the depth to compete, the Blackhawks will make it interesting but bow out in the end. VAN in 6

Alex: The Canucks are just too good, plain and simple. VAN in 5

Tom: The backing-in Blackhawks played .500 hockey down the stretch. Vancouver hasn’t slowed down one bit. The Cup favorites end this one early. VAN in 5

Jay: The Canucks have been the league’s best team all year long, and their top lines will prove to be too much for Chicago’s depleted talent pool. VAN in 5

7th Seed Los Angeles Kings vs 2nd Seed San Jose Sharks

Vulgar Stats Playoff Power Rankings: 2nd (SJS), 8th (LAK)
Regular Season Series: SJS wins season series 3-1-2

Phil: This series is the hardest to predict for me. The Sharks are notorious playoff chokers, but offender-in-chief Evgeni Nabokov is no longer around to sink a series. Meanwhile, the Kings are pretty green and missing their top two scorers. Just to play contrarian, I’m going with the kids in Los Angeles battling like hell to take the series. LAK in 7

Alex: The loss of Kopitar should be brutal for the Kings. Plus San Jose comes into the playoffs with a scorching power play. SJS in 6

Tom: San Jose doesn’t have the greatest postseason track record, but the Kings have been flat for a couple weeks. Without Kopitar, it’s an early exit for LA. SJS in 6

Jay: The Canucks have been the leagues best team all year long, and their stop lines will prove to be too much for Chicago’s depleted talent pool. LAK in 6

6th Seed Phoenix Coyotes vs 3rd Seed Detroit Red Wings

Vulgar Stats Playoff Power Rankings: 4th (DET), 6th (PHX)
Regular Season Series: DET wins season series 2-1-1

Phil: Phoenix winning after their epic battle against Detroit last spring would be an awesome feel-good story, but they just won’t be able to hold up to the Red Wings’ veteran presence, deep defensive crew, and emerging star goaltending in Jimmy Howard. DET in 5

Alex: With three of the four contests during the regular season heading to extra time, this one figures to be close. I think the Coyotes have an edge in goaltending, and I see Bryzgalov standing tall. PHX in 7

Tom: Phoenix played a whale of a series against the Wings last year. It was great hockey to watch, and I expect the same this time around. BizNasty makes the difference here. (At least in our hearts…) PHX in 7

Jay: While Phoenix has surpassed all expectations this year, they lack playoff experience, and the true depth to make it through a series with a team like the Wings. Detroit stands tall and ends this series early. DET in 5

5th Seed Nashville Predators vs 4th Seed Anaheim Ducks

Vulgar Stats Playoff Power Rankings: 3rd (ANA), 5th (NSH)
Regular Season Series: NSH wins season series 3-1-0

Phil: The Ducks have the hottest player in the league, playing on the best line in the league, leading two of the best scoring lines in hockey into the playoffs. Their defense isn’t anything to write home about beyond the excellent Lydman/Visnovsky pairing. The Predators have a cast of no-name forwards, a very deep defensive corps, and one of the likely Vezina candidates in Pekka Rinne. I know Nashville took the season series, but they’re facing an Anaheim side that is white-hot and dialed in. ANA in 6

Alex: The Predators scored 4, 4, 4, and 5 goals against Anaheim during the regular season. Coming from a team that typically struggles to score and lets Pekka Rinne win games for them, that’s trouble. NSH in 5

Tom: Anaheim wasn’t as good defensively as they have been in years past, but Nashville was stingy as ever. Don’t expect many barnburners here, but hey, the playoffs do a whale of a job shining up the trap. NSH in 6

Jay: Nashville has been quietly great all season long. With players like Weber, Rinne, and Suter all playing strong down the stretch, they will be difficult to score against. In the end they will outlast Cory Perry and the Ducks in a long hard fought series. NSH in 7

With 7 of the 8 opening series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs covered, check back tomorrow afternoon for our preview of the latest chapter in the Buffalo Sabres/Philadelphia Flyers playoff rivalry!

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