This is going to be one hell of a playoffs.
There are really only two teams that “should” go to the Stanley Cup finals from the west. San Jose and Detroit. Everyone else is a dark horse.
That said — both teams are vulnerable to upsets, and I wouldn’t be at all suprised if it happens.
Detroit: will their goaltending be good enough to support a deep run? the last two games against Chicago indicates that might be a problem.
San Jose: this team had plenty of injuries in the second half of the season, but honestly, they seemed to lose interest as well and coast. The good news is — they still won the President’s Cup. The bad news is: that won’t be good enough in the playoffs. If any team can “flip the switch” and get going in the playoffs, the Sharks can, but if it takes more than a period or two the Sharks could find themselves in trouble.
So either — or both — of these teams could be missing from the western final. I give it about 50-50 one of them will be. Which one? Pick ’em. But honestly, the sharks problems are more solvable than the Wings are; if the goaltending isn’t there, it’s all over. And I don’t trust either Osgood or Conklin based on their play the second half of this season.
Honestly? With the exception of Calgary, which just looks — off — anyone in the West can go on a run and go deep. Seven of the 8 teams are teams that I think are legitimately dangerous, and there are some goaltenders out there that can kill any other team in a series, starting with Luongo. So the west is really a crapshoot. Other than my believing that Calgary just can’t get past Chicago, the other three series should be tough and fun series.
San Jose/Anaheim: San Jose in 5. This isn’t the cup winning team of a couple of years ago. It tends to look old, and it’s one of the teams where I think the goaltending just won’t be strong enough. I think the Sharks can out-physical them, and the Ducks take too many penalties and penalties at bad times, which plays into the Sharks strength. The best way to beat the Sharks is stay even strength, and the Ducks can’t.
Detroit/Columbus: Detroit in 5. But Columbus goaltending is strong, the Wings didn’t look good this last week, and their goaltending? I’m betting Conklin holds up for a series, but if I’m Mike Babcock, I’m not feeling overly confident right now.
Vancouver/St. Louis: Vancouver in 6. The Blues are a true cinderalla story, but don’t expect them to go quietly. But Luongo will be the difference here. Just don’t expect any “happy to be here” team to show up.
Chicago/Calgary: Chicago in 5. Chicago is firing on all cylinders and plays a fast, physical style I like. Calgary isn’t. This series should be (relatively) easy, but the Flames will get physical and Iginla won’t go quietly. But the Hawks should go into the next round.
If Detroit gets goaltending, the only team that can beat them is San Jose.
The only teams that can beat San Jose are — Detroit, and San Jose. I wish I were more confident that a self-inflicted wound wasn’t likely.
I am picking San Jose to come out of the West, though, but only giving it a 50% likelihood of happening. 25% to Detroit. and 25% to the field, and in the field, I really like Chicago and I wouldn’t put it past Columbus and Vancouver if their goaltending carries them.
Tomorrow, the east.