Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview - Western Conference Semifinals

The first round in the Western Conference featured 4 entertaining match ups with Anaheim/Winnipeg, St. Louis/Minnesota, Vancouver/Calgary and Nashville/Chicago. The series went as follows:

Anaheim Ducks defeat Winnipeg Jets 4-0
Minnesota Wild defeat St. Louis Blues 4-2
Calgary Flames defeat Vancouver Canucks 4-2
Chicago Blackhawks defeat Nashville Predators 4-2

I went 4/4 as I picked Anaheim, Minnesota, Calgary and Chicago

Here's a look at the 2nd round match ups in the West:

#1 Anaheim Ducks vs. #3 Calgary Flames

Season Series: Anaheim won the season series 3-1-1

November 18, 2014: Calgary Flames 4, Anaheim Ducks 3 (SO)

November 25, 2014: Anaheim Ducks 3, Calgary Flames 2
January 21, 2015: Anaheim Ducks 6, Calgary Flames 3
February 20, 2015: Anaheim Ducks 6, Calgary Flames 3
March 11, 2015: Calgary Flames 6, Anaheim Ducks 3 

Players to Watch:

Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Sami Vatanen, Jakub Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano

Calgary: Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hidler, Sean Monahan, Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell, Micheal Ferland


Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf

Calgary: Micheal Ferland 

Playoff Leaders:

Goals: Corey Perry/Ryan Kesler - 3 (ANA), Jiri Hudler - 3 (CGY)
Assists: Corey Perry/Jakob Silfverberg - 4 (ANA), Johnny Gaudreau/Dennis Wideman - 4 (CGY)
Points: Corey Perry - 7 (ANA), Jiri Hudler/Johnny Gaudreau - 6 (CGY)
Wins: Frederik Andersen - 4 (ANA), Jonas Hiller - 3 (CGY)

Series Notes:
-The Ducks enter this series having swept the Winnipeg Jets 4-0.

-The Flames enter this series having upset the Vancouver Canucks 4-2.
-The line of Ryan Kesler-Andrew Cogliano-Jakob Silfverberg was dominant in round 1, one of the best lines of the playoffs so far.
-The Ducks will need a big contribution from the dynamic duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to win this series.
-Sami Vatanen was a big contributor on offense in the 1st round, the Ducks will hope that continues in this series.
-Frederik Andersen will need to be sharp in this series, the Flames have a much stronger offensive attack than the Jets had.
-Pressure will be on former Ducks and current Flames goalie Jonas Hiller to lead his current team past his old team. He was strong in the 1st round against the Canucks and will need to be on top of his game in this series.
-The Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler line struggled at times in the 1st round but picked it up when it mattered most (10 combined points in their series-winning performance in game 6). Look for this trio to heat up in round 2.
-The Flames had a big contribution from the line of Micheal Ferland-Matt Stajan-David Jones in the 1st round, they will need to keep their physicality and secondary scoring up in order to beat the Ducks. 
-Ferland was a difference-maker against the Canucks, a force on the body check the entire series with 40 hits in 6 games. The Ducks are a much more physical team than the Canucks so Ferland will need to be throwing his weight around even more.
-Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell were rock-solid in round 1, the Flames will need them to produce offensively to win this series. TJ Brodie will also be counted on heavily to put up points.
-The Ducks beat the Flames 4-3 the last time these teams met in the playoffs in 2006. Only Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin were on the Ducks in 2006 from this current team, while Mark Giordano (injured) is the only current Flame from that 2006 team.

Prediction: This is going to be a close series, one that has the potential to get very physical as well as both teams like to hit a ton. While I certainly would like to see the underdog Flames pull the upset, I think it is the Ducks year.


#3 Chicago Blackhawks vs. WC #1 Minnesota Wild

Season Series: Chicago won the season series 3-2-0

December 16, 2014: Chicago Blackhawks 5, Minnesota Wild 3

January 8, 2015: Chicago Blackhawks 4, Minnesota Wild 2
January 11, 2015: Chicago Blackhawks 4, Minnesota Wild 1
February 3, 2015: Minnesota Wild 3, Chicago Blackhawks 0
April 7, 2015: Minnesota Wild 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Players to Watch:

Chicago: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook

Minnesota: Zach Parise, Devan Dubnyk, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Jared Spurgeon


Chicago: Patrick Kane

Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk 

Playoff Leaders:

Goals: Jonathan Toews/Patrick Sharp - 3 (CHI), Zach Parise/Nino Niederreiter - 3 (MIN)
Assists: Jonathan Toews/Duncan Keith/Patrick Kane/Marian Hossa - 5 (CHI), Zach Parise/Mikael Granlund - 4 (MIN)
Points: Jonathan Toews - 8 (CHI), Zach Parise - 7 (MIN) 
Wins: Devan Dubnyk - 4 (MIN), Scott Darling - 3 (CHI)

Series Notes:
-The Blackhawks enter this series having beaten the Nashville Predators 4-2.

-The Wild enter this series having upset the St. Louis Blues 4-2.
-This will be the 3rd consecutive playoffs the Blackhawks and Wild will meet, with the Blackhawks beating the Wild 4-1 in 2013 and 4-2 in 2014.
-The Blackhawks will need a much better performance out of Corey Crawford, who was pulled from game 1 and allowed 6 goals in game 2 (9 goals in 4 periods) of the Predators series. Scott Darling started the rest of the way until he was pulled in game 6, where Crawford picked up the win. Crawford will get the start in this series but will be a short leash.
-Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook pairing was the best in round 1, both defenseman scored OT goals and Keith scored 2 of the 4 game-winning goals for the Hawks. They will be counted on offensively and defensively in this series.
-The Hawks will need their core guys (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Saad) to put up points in this series.
-The Wild will go as far as Devan Dubnyk takes them, he was spectacular in round 1 and could be the difference-maker to finally lead the Wild past the Hawks. He will need to be at his best in this series if the Wild have a chance.
-Zach Parise will need to lead the Wild offensively, the Wild don't have as many stars on offense but they are a deep team who can get goals from all 4 lines.
-The Wild have one of the best defensive units in the NHL and will need contributions from Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba offensively.
-The Blackhawks beat the Wild 4-2 the last time these teams met in the playoffs in 2014.

Prediction: History will repeat itself, for the 3rd straight season the Blackhawks will knock the Wild out of the playoffs.


That leaves the Western Conference Finals as the #1 Anaheim Ducks vs. #3 Chicago Blackhawks to see who gets a birth in the Stanley Cup Finals.

-Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff

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