2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Preview, Predictions

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Western Conference Quarterfinals

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings

Not exactly an easy match up for the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Jonathan Quick is probably the most underrated goalie in the league. The problem for the Kings is that they can’t score goals. The Kings play the Canucks tough though. They are familiar with the Canucks after the grueling 2010 series that the Canucks won in 6 games. The Canucks will get enough shots past Quick though and the Luongo/Schneider duo in goal for Vancouver will shut down Los Angeles. Canucks advance.

Prediction: Canucks in 5

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks

The Sharks could not have asked for a worse match up. St. Louis beat San Jose all 4 times during the season by an average of 2 goals per game. Many expect the Sharks to make some noise in the playoffs, but this is simply not a cohesive team. The Sharks have been on the verge of being blown up all season, and this will be the nail in the coffin. The Sharks are loaded every season with enormous talent but can't put it together. The biggest problem for the Blues is that they are untested. The challenge for them will be that first time they have to overcome a little adversity in the playoffs. How they respond will determine how far they advance. Lucky for them it won’t occur during this series. Blues sweep.

Prediction: Blues in 4

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks

If Jonathan Quick is the most underrated goalie, Dave Tippett is the most underrated coach. Year after year he gets the most out of a Coyotes team that is on the cusp of leaving town. Phoenix simply isn’t as deep as the Blackhawks though. The Coyotes are not an explosive team and lack the firepower to advance over Chicago. The only hope they have is if Mike Smith plays out of his mind and steals the series for them. Kane, Sharp, and Hossa help the Blackhawks move on.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings

No team has more riding on playoff run than the Predators. The futures of Weber and Suter in Nashville likely rest on how far the Preds advance. Pekka Rinne is the only goalie in the NHL to have started more than 70 games this season. The lack of rest will catch up to him sooner or later. The Red Wings have too much experience. Nashville has never experienced the pressure they will face during this series. It will be interesting to see how they respond and if Rinne has enough gas left in the tank. This series will go the distance and the veteran experience in Detroit carries them over the finish line in what could be an epic series.

Prediction: Red Wings in 7

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks

Here we go again. Other than Flyers-Penguins, this currently may be the best rivalry in hockey. The Blackhawks nearly ended the season of Daniel Sedin a few days ago. It appears that Daniel will be healthy and ready to play, and if these two teams match up, the Canucks will be looking for revenge. Vancouver finally got over the hump last season when they knocked out Chicago. With that monkey off their back, don’t expect the old Chicago demons to haunt the Canucks again. They are simply the more talented team. Last season after Vancouver took a 3-0 lead they allowed Chicago to claw back into the series and tie it 3-3, eventually needing OT in Game 7 to advance. Don't expect the Canucks to let that happen again if they get up on Chicago this year. Whenever these two teams match up it is guaranteed to be a battle but the Canucks will knock out Chicago again this season.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings

After cruising past the Sharks, the Blues will have to play Detroit. Detroit has the skill, goaltending, and coach who have all been there and done it before. When crunch time rolls around, young guys become nervous. While the Blues are the deeper team, their lack of experience will catch up to them against the most experienced team in the league. The Red Wings took the season series 4-2 and the playoff series will have the same result.

Prediction: Red Wings in 6

Western Conference Finals

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings

The only team that the Canucks have not had to face in the playoffs the previous few years is the Red Wings. By the time the Conference Finals start, the Red Wings will be drained. Detroit is a team that is carried by their extraordinary top six forwards. Without a deep roster, bodies will start to get tired. The Canucks can roll four physical lines any night and that is where they have the edge over Detroit. After battling Nashville and St. Louis, the Wings won’t be the same team. The Canucks advance to the Finals for the second straight year.

Prediction: Canucks in 6

Stanley Cup Finals

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins

Every team that wins the Cup has to overcome some adversity before reaching the top of the mountain. The Penguins lost to the Red Wings in the Finals before winning the Cup the next year. The Blackhawks lost to the Red Wings in the Conference Finals the year before winning the Cup. The Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers the year before winning the Cup. Vancouver is tougher this season. They know what it takes to close out a series. Last season, Vancouver was on a magical ride. This season, they are hardened and tougher. After blowing a 3-2 Cup lead last season and watching their city get destroyed by their own fans, the Canucks have certainly endured adversity. The Penguins are going to be a tough team to beat but the Cup is going to Vancouver this year. Canucks win their first ever Stanley Cup in a Finals that will go down as one of the greatest ever. The season started on October 6 with Penguins at Canucks. It will end the same way.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

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