Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche came into this season with high expectations because they made the playoffs last year, but the reason these expectations were not met and the reason they will lose this series is simple, depth. This team is shallower than a six-inch pond. The team’s forward core is three players, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Unfortunately for the Avs this is not basketball, depth is a need not a want. They are also just outskilled on the top six, so they may not even get enough production from their first line. The Flames also swept the Avs in the regular season series. However, the Avs are a hungry team and they do have an outstanding top line. With all this considered, the Flames will win in five games. The Avalanche simply don’t have the deepness or consistency to keep up with the Flames. If the Avs can get better supplementary players they may have a chance next year. But as for their immediate future, it is very bleak.
Dallas Stars vs. Nashville Predators
Although the Stars are a wild card team, this will be a great series. The Stars have an outstanding goalie in Ben Bishop who recently set the Stars record for shutouts in a season and should be the Vezina Trophy winner as he recently passed Andrei Vasilevskiy in the race. Now despite the fact that the Predators are a good team, I don’t buy them. They choke away golden opportunities left and right. More specifically, their goalie, Pekka Rinne is a choke job. Take the Stanley Cup Finals a couple years ago for instance. Pekka was pulled on home ice even though he was supposed to be the best goalie in the playoffs. He also choked last year away during the playoffs even though many predicted the Preds returning to the finals. You cannot trust this team or its goaltender, this is why I have to pick the Stars in six games. You see, yes the Preds are a good team but the Stars are hungrier and have a better, more consistent goalie. It should be a good series but the Stars will come out on top.
St Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets
This is a fantastic matchup. The Blues mid-season surge has pushed them from one of the worst teams in the league to a solid playoff team. They are hungry and want to prove themselves against the Jets. There is just one problem, the Jets outmatch them. They will not be able to handle players like Mark Scheifele and will be burned as a result. Similar to Pekka Rinne and the Predators, the Blues also have an inconsistent choke job as their goaltender in Jake Allen. They do have a great backup in Jordan Binnington but he has not played enough to take the reins. In the other net for the Jets you have Connor Hellebuyck who is a solid goaltender who will help lead the Jets to victory. The Jets also have the home ice advantage to help them. Now don’t get me wrong, the series could go either way. The Blues are a team that’s on fire right now looking for a big statement win over the Jets. With all this considered, I have picked the Jets in seven. These are both great teams it’s just the fact that the Jets have the edge in talent and home ice, this will carry them to victory but don’t think it will be easy.
San Jose Sharks vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights
Yet another great series in the first round. The Golden Knights beat the Sharks in the important facet of goaltending but the Sharks’ depth is incredible. These two teams tied the season series and are sure to trade blow for blow here. So what is the difference maker? The Sharks have better talent and they have home ice in game seven. I looked over these teams trying to find something that would make one better than the other and the only things I could find were home ice and slightly better talent. The series truly could go either way but the Sharks are great at home with a 25-11-5 record. In the end, I would not be surprised if the Knights won but the Sharks should come up with a win in seven games.
NOTE: Hockey is one of the best sports because of it’s parity. So although I can make solid educated guesses, keep the TV on, anything can and often does happen. The western conference is even tighter than the east so get ready for some great playoffs!