Western Conference

Las Vegas Golden Knights – 51-24-7 (109 pts) vs Los Angeles Kings – 46-29-8 (98 pts)

Season series VGK 2-1-1; LAK 2-1-1

Forwards

Advantage: VEGO (that’s a SoCal thing)

This entire matchup is an offense versus defense matchup. That being said, across four lines Vegas is slightly better than the kings, the kings have a dynamic trio in Kopotir (career year), Brown (28 goal scorer), and Tyler Toffoli. However the Vegas knights have a 40+ goal scorer in wild bill Karlson, and 60 pt getters in Smith, Marchessault, and Perron.

Defense

Advantage: LA

Just one name…wait for it………a….little longer………..Doughty (a relieving, calming exhale confirms the expected). Even if you were to take LA superstar defensemen Drew Doughty out of the equation you have a team that is fundamentally sooooo sound on defense that it can cramp even the greatest of oak sized hamstrings. The kings finished the season (under a BRAND SPANKING NEW coach) as THE best defensive team. Nuff said.

Goaltending

Advantage: LA

This series will be the best (hardware) goalie matchup in decades. One goalie has 2 rings as a starter but the other has 3 total rings (while being a significant in those runs, not the starter for the last 2). In my honest, opinion these two goalies strike me as very similar in ability and style. The edge I give to quick because he knows his team, he knows his defense and he has won with them. Fleury is on par with Quick both technique wise and ability wise but has not played with this group before in a playoff atmosphere and has not won a cup as the starter in this decade.

X-Factor

Sin City itself. No other sport has momentum swings within a series or a game or a period or a shift like hockey does. Vegas itself is a momentum changer. The fans can turn any potential home loss into a rallying cry. it can flip fortunes of visiting teams hoping to strike it rich in the entertainment capital of the world and having them leaving muttering “what the hell just happened”

Flawless prediction – Los Angeles in 6

Winnipeg Jets – 52-20-10 (114 pts) vs Minnesota Wild – 45-26-11 (101 pts)

Season series – Wpg 3-1; Minn. 1-3

Forwards

Advantage: Winnipeg

As surprised as I am at freaking Eric Staal crushing 40 goals for the Minnesota Wild it is equal in impressive that Winnipeg has an super young, Elite goal scorer, named……..wait for it…..Kyle Connor! Not the name you were expecting? Neither was the league or this team. But add his 31 goals to next years superstar Patrick Liane and you have 75 goals amongst 2 teenagers. This offense is ranked 2nd in the nhl and could only be stopped by an elite defenseman. Which transitions nicely into our next breakdown…..wait for it…..

Defense

Advantage: Winnipeg

Ryan Suter would have changed my pick but…he is gone, much like Minnesota’s chance at a deep run. The only real name I’m familiar with on Minnesota’s D is Dumba and he’s not that scary. Who is scary on the ice and in a poorly lit alleyway is Mr. Byfuglien. He’s a game changer with an asterisk. That asterisk is: does he want to play? When he does he’s top 5 as a defenseman IMO, when he doesn’t he might as well be a bottom-six grinder. Winnipeg finished so high this year I gotta feeling he’s ready to make a statement.

Goaltending

Advantage: tie

This is a tuffy as us goalies never say. On the one hand, you have Minnesota’s Dubs who has arguably the best “numbers” of any goalie since his trade to Minnesota. But Helleybuck is that fresh new goalie wave, splashing on the league with the likes of Vasilesky or Matt Murray or a John Gibson. The difference is can a first-time starter solidify his spot as the new hope for a rabid Winnipeg fan base craving playoff success.

X-Factor

Jinx-es Bruce’s has a reputation of underperforming in the playoffs and this year will be no more gentle in its scrutiny. Can he turn regular season success into playoff success? At the same time can Winnipeg win a damn playoff series? Only my flawless prediction will tell

Flawless prediction: Winnipeg in 6

Nashville Predators – 53-18-11 (117 pts)  Colorado Avalanche – 43-30-9 (95 pts)

Season Series – Nashville swept it 4-0

Offense

Advantage Preds

The main problem here for the Avalanche is that the Preds can just roll line after line that can have devastating consequences. They have 5 players in their top 6 with 50 plus points and Kevin Fiala who sits just below at 48. Then a 3rd line anchored by Bonino that can hurt you and a 4th line with veteran Mike Fisher and a very underrated winger in Ryan Harman who can light the lamp. All of this and you haven’t even talked about the points from their defense! Their top 4 defenders have combined for nearly 180 points on their own! This is not to slight what Nathan MacKinnon has done for his team this season. At 22 years old he has shown he is just world class. Putting up 97 points is no joke in this league. And with the help of Mikko Rantanen with 84 points they have been one of the most dominant lines in the league. This is just not enough to beat the Preds this season though.

Defense

Advantage Preds

While no disrespect to Tyson Barrie and Sam Girard as they both are pretty good players and have done well in their own right. There is just no match for this Predators defense in this series. When you have the likes of PK Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm you just have the best d-core in the NHL. Subban with 59 points this season and Josi with 53 have both been mentioned in this years Norris race. The amazing thing about this offensively gifted core is that it’s not all about lighting the lamp. This defense has only allowed more goals this season than the Kings.

Goaltending

Advantage Preds

There is just no question here. Pekka Rinne’s play is on another planet right now. He is all the talk for the Vezina this season and should be. Posting a .927 sv%. Couple this with the Avs having to use Bernier instead of Varlamov and this just spells doom for Colorado.

X-Factor

There is no help here for the Avs unless Patrick Roy in his prime returns to the lineup. Even if Rinne somehow manages to fall apart it still wouldn’t matter.

Prediction – One line team and no depth spells doom for the Avs. They’re gonna be done in 4.

Anaheim Ducks – 44-25-13 (101 pts) San Jose Sharks – 45-27-10 (100 pts)

Season Series – Sharks took it 3-1

Offense

Advantage Ducks

Both of these teams have been scoring by committee. Evander Kane has been amazing for the Sharks since coming over via trade with 14 pts in 17 games. The Ducks have had the same success via trade with Adam Henrique who has put up 36pts for the Ducks in just 57 games.

Rakell leads the way for Anaheim with 69 points and Pavelski lead the Sharks forwards with 66. Ondrej Kase puts up 38 pts, Mikkel Boedker puts up 37. Tomas Hertl with 47 pts and Jakob Silfverberg puts up 40.  You get the picture here? It’s pretty much even. The only advantage for Anaheim here is that Captain Ryan Getzlaf has been a monster all season despite having a broken face and missing significant time. He has been able to put up 61 pts in just 56 games and he is responsible on the defensive side of the puck. With the Sharks missing Jumbo Joe for potentially the series and the Ducks strong down the middle with Getzlaf, Kesler and Henrique it really leaves a hole in this Sharks offense without him.

Defense

Advantage Sharks

Much like the Ducks taking the advantage in the offense because of Jumbo Joe’s injury, the Sharks take the advantage here due to Cam Fowlers. The Ducks have a great shut down pair in Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm but with the loss of Cam Fowler things start to look a bit shaky down the depth chart. Montour who usually is paired with Cam now is going to get a slow vet in Bieksa or Beauchemin and the 3rd pair who recently was made up of just kids in Andy Welinski and Marcus Pettersson doesn’t look so promising for the Anaheim squad with Cup aspirations. That third pairing has been eaten alive night after night. On to the Sharks and obviously, the big name and star power here is Brent Burns. Just one year removed from his first Norris trophy, the beardly beast of a player went out and lead his team in points this season with 67. It’s not hard to see that this Sharks teams offense flows through Burns on a nightly basis. This is not to take away from his ability on the defensive side of play either, where he is equally talented. Players like Burns are game breakers. Add in guys like Vlasic and Braun and this defense pairs up well against Anaheim. Not to mention the 3rd pair of Dillon and Demelo are far better than the Ducks Welinski and Pettersson.

Goaltending

Advantage – Ducks

Normally it would be easy to say that the Ducks would be outplayed in this position given recent history of their playoff failures but the crease has been a strong point for this team. And with Gibson looking like he’s going to be healthy to start the series things are looking up in Anaheim. John Gibson has quietly made his way into the Vezina conversation and Ryan Miller has been nothing short of spectacular in his role of back up. Gibson is heading into this postseason with a career-high .936sv% and Miller at a .928. If this is the Gibson that shows up for the playoffs the Ducks are in good hands. Martin Jones for the Sharks hasn’t had the best season statistically speaking but has had some decent stretches. Where his numbers really shine are in the playoffs. This is where he is 16-14 with a sv% of .925 on his career. If this is the Jones that shows up this series it would really even out the crease war with Anaheim.

X-Factor

Really seems like with these two teams so evenly matched that it’s going to come down to depth scoring. Look to Silfverberg on Anaheim to come up clutch and pot a winner. Known well for his defensive play, Silfverberg potted 20 goals again this campaign for Anaheim. For the Sharks getting back Joe Thornton could turn the tide, but since that isn’t for certain a player like Timo Meier could burn you with a timely goal. He isn’t well known around the NHL and quietly put up 21 goals this season for the Sharks on the 3rd line.

Prediction – Gibson shuns his naysayers & continues to carry his team on his back. Ducks in 6