My Most Wanted NHL Playoff Series: Western Conference
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With the NHL playoffs approaching, I thought it would be fun to go over which playoff series I would most like to see. Well, not fun, but, you know, something to pass the time and keep me from crying any more about what happened to Tiger Woods.
Two whole… points? Are you serious, Masters? (That’s what you call it, points, right?) How is he supposed to win his… next… Masters when you take away two points? He totally didn’t deserve that. He shot it from farther, not closer. If anything he deserves extra points for that!
Anyway, here are my most anticipated playoff series, first for the Western Conference.
1. Los Angeles Kings vs Chicago Blackhawks
To use a UEFA Champions League analogy, this is the Barcelona vs FC Bayern Munich match-up. The best two teams who just so happen to have opposite styles. Size and skill with speed vs even more speed and skill (but less size). It’s always fun to see series like the Canucks vs the Blackhawks where it’s the two most speedy and skilled teams going against each other, but this year I’m more interested to see the last two Stanley Cup winners from the Western Conference, who won it with opposite styles, go against each other.
2. Anaheim Ducks vs Chicago Blackhawks
Maybe the two teams with the fastest, most explosive group of forwards in the Western Conference, this would be more like the Canucks-Blackhawks series of recent memory, although I think having the likes of Bryan Allen and Ben Lovejoy on their blue-line is an achilles heel for the Anaheim Ducks that the Blackhawks don’t share, which could be the Ducks’ undoing. Still, I would love to see Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, Saku Koivu, Daniel Winnik, Andrew Cogliano, Patrick Holland and company face off against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad (probably my rookie of the year), Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, and Bryan Bickell (and company).
3. Chicago Blackhawks vs anyone
Seriously. I could keep going through every team with the Blackhawks because they are easily the most entertaining team to watch in the NHL in my opinion, but this is quicker. Blackhawks vs Canucks would be amazing, again, as always. Blackhawks vs Sharks would be interesting. Blackhawks vs Blue Jackets, if they make it, could be awesome, because I am sold on the new-look Blue Jackets. They could beat the Blackhawks. They could beat anyone. When healthy, they’re fricken awesome. So if they make the playoffs, I could put a lot of Blue Jackets’ potential series on this list, too, but for now I’m only going to focus on teams who look playoff bound at the moment.
4. Los Angeles Kings vs Anaheim Ducks
This freeway series holds similar appeal to me as the Kings-Blackhawks series would. Anaheim is probably the faster team, and certainly the slicker one offensively a la the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Kings are deeper and, theoretically, bigger and better and more consistent on defense, although missing Willie Mitchell might be what keeps the Kings from repeating this season. He was HUGE for them last season (capitalized AND bolded! That’s how good he was was! Of course, I have no explanation for why the word “and” is italicized and capitalized, too, but at least you get the point when it comes to how huge Mitchell was). Jake Muzzin has emerged this season as a nice offensive threat from the blue-line for the Kings, but I don’t doubt they would trade that offensive flair for Mitchell’s rare calibre of defense, plus he’s an underrated skater and puck-mover himself. He just shut the game down for the other team, along with the rest of the Kings defense (but with him and Doughty really the glue in the middle of it, with Voynov also playing well), and I don’t think that Kings can be that team that won the first three games of every playoff series last year without him.
The only way you can almost keep the other teams from winning a game against you all postseason is by keeping them from scoring. Sure, theoretically, and generally, offense and defense are worth the same (and I’ve said that many times, contrary to what many coaches say), but in terms of this specific example when it comes to the Kings, I sort of agree with those “defense wins championships” coaches in one sense: defense can be more consistent than offense, and less reliant on puck-luck, and more repeatable game to game without having off-games. So even if Muzzin’s emergence on the blue-line can add to the Kings’ Goals Per Game average the exact same amount as Mitchell’s play lowered their Goals Against Average last season/playoffs (which is a stretch by itself), I still don’t think they’re as good a team, because those goals for could come at any time, unpredictably, and maybe the wrong time, when they’re not needed (and then not come when they are needed), whereas if you can just blanket your opposition every game and keep them from scoring more than 1 goal most games (or even 2), you’re going to win most of those games at the end o the day no matter what.
So I think the Kings could be in trouble without Mitchell come the playoffs, although they still have to be considered near-favorites to come out of the West (second to the Blackhawks, maybe). And no, I’m not sold on Robyn Regehr as a replacement. But even so, these two teams don’t like each other, and the geography aspect adds to it, and the style clash adds to it, and the high amount of skill and depth on both teams would make for a great series.
5. Minnesota Wild vs Vancouver Canucks
This series lost some of its luster with the Wild losing Dany Heatley for the season, but I’d still like to see the old Kings of the division, the Canucks, face off against the resurgent Wild, who are led by a trio of newly acquired top players in Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, and Jason Pominville. These are two pretty well-balanced teams, although I would give the edge to Vancouver if healthy with the Sedins at full capacity, and both are deep with skill and good speed.
• San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
• San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks
- San Jose Sharks vs Vancouver Canucks
• St Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks (this actually maybe should have been 4 or 5 ahead of Canucks-Wild, but I didn’t think of it)
• St Louis Blues vs Anaheim Ducks
• St Louis Blues vs Vancouver Canucks
• St Louis Blues vs Columbus Blue Jackets
• Columbus Blue Jackets vs Minnesota Wild
• Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks
• Detroit Red Wings vs Los Angeles Kings (although the Wings would get destroyed I think)
Written by Shark Circle
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