The Kings couldn’t sneak into the postseason, ensuring there will be a new Western Conference champion — and there will be no repeat Stanley Cup champion this season.
The Ducks and Blues look like strong contenders, but the conference is as wide open as ever. Read on for analysis and picks for each Western Conference first-round series.
Ducks(51-24-7, 109 points)vs. Jets(43-26-13, 99 points)
Anaheim won all three matchups this season, but they haven’t faced off since Jan. 11. Winnipeg is playing much better hockey now (12-6-1 over March and April) and will give the Ducks a fight. It won’t be enough, however, as center Ryan Getzlaf and Anaheim survive.
Pick: Ducks in sevenCanucks(48-29-5, 101 points)vs. Flames(45-30-7, 97 points)
Calgary’s power play will find success hard to come by against the Canucks’ second-ranked penalty kill. With Daniel and Henrik Sedin leading Vancouver’s offense, this has the makings of a short series.
Pick: Canucks in fiveBlues(51-24-7, 109 points)vs. Wild(46-28-8, 100 points)
Each team has looked great, but last Saturday’s 4-2 Blues victory over visiting Minnesota could be a sign of things to come. Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk is the X-factor. If he rises to the occasion, he can will a Wild win. If not, the Blues should move on from a tough series.
Pick: Blues in seven
Predators(47-25-10, 104 points)vs. Blackhawks(48-28-6, 102 points)
Many of these teams are post-All-Star break standouts. Nashville earned its way in thanks to a great start to the season. That’s not a trend that tends to result in a lengthy postseason run. Chicago will have offensive machine Patrick Kane back for the first time since February. Things are looking good for the Hawks.
Pick: Blackhawks in five