The Western Conference has been underwhelming in recent years. This season, I think it was starting to take a turn. With the Battle of Alberta, Vegas bringing fresh passion, and the Blues giving the West a Cup, it’s been exciting hockey to watch.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s going to be an easy road to the Finals for the West. It’s going to be dog fight after dog fight. That being said, here’s an overview of my predictions.
Calgary v. Winnipeg
They only got the chance to play once against each other before the season was paused, so it’s a bit of a mystery as to how they play. But, based on their performances and rosters, my money has to go with the Flames.
First off, the Flames are a pain in the ass to play against. Why? Tkachuk. He has an uncanny ability to get under opponents’ skin and set up shop. We saw him do it against Edmonton, though Edmonton had players who stood up to him. Winnipeg has very talented players, but no one who will be a roadblock for him.
Second, while the Jets have a fantastic first line, the Flames, in my opinion, have more depth. The talent runs just a little deeper for Calgary and that will push them on to the Round Robin.
Edmonton v. Chicago
I feel like I don’t have to explain this one too much. Unless a miracle has happened since the season paused, there’s no way Chicago can pull off a series win. Edmonton has more talent, more tenacity, and more heart this year. Unfortunately, Kane and Toews are not strong enough to carry the Blackhawks on their backs anymore.
Vancouver v. Minnesota
This series is going to be close. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they went the full 5 games, with at least two going into OT. They played each other 3 times before March, Minnesota winning 2, the second being in a SO. It seems they are pretty evenly matched.
That being said, my prediction is Vancouver in 5. There are a few names that come to mind to explain this: Boeser, Horvat, Pettersson, Hughes. Brock Boeser was out for quite a while because of a fractured rib. Before that, he was averaging almost a point per game. Based on his past seasons, he should be back to peak performance when play resumes. Horvat is a proven leader in whom I have full confidence to get his team to their first playoff tournament in 5 years. Pettersson and Hughes are exciting rookies who have the potential to step up and win.
Nashville v. Arizona
Oh, man, this could be a fun one. Nashville has been a formidable team in the playoffs in recent years. The Coyotes haven’t seen the playoffs in 8 years.
What makes this matchup so exciting for me is that they’ve only played each other twice and they split the series, but both games were before Taylor Hall became a factor in Arizona. He’s spent half a season in the desert and was performing well. Neither he nor his team has seen the playoffs in years, and they are hungry for it.
Nashville may have a very talented roster, but the heart and desire from the Coyotes may be the extra push to get them in the running. My prediction? A 5 game series, with the Predators just barely squeaking by. I would love to be proven wrong.
After the first round, things will be very interesting. Here are my quick predictions for round 2, based on the above: Calgary v. St. Louis, Edmonton v. Colorado, Vancouver v. Las Vegas, Nashville v. Dallas.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselonDrums)