2012 NHL Playoff Preview - Western Conference

Let the Real Season Begin - NHL Western Conference Playoff Preview

4/10/12 in NHL   |   The_Real_Stoney   |   24080 respect

Blog Photo - 2012 NHL Playoff Preview - Western Conference
#3 Phoenix Coyotes                                                                      #6 Chicago Blackhawks
11-12 Record: 42-27-13  97pts                                                  11-12 Record: 45-26-11  101pts
                                                       Season Series: Coyotes 3-1
Leading Scorers
Goals – Radim Vrbata – 35                                                         Patrick Sharp – 33
Assists – Ray Whitney – 53                                                         Marian Hossa – 48
Points – Ray Whitney – 77                                                           Marian Hossa – 77
Goalie Comparisons (Record, SO, GAA, Save%)
Mike Smith (38-18-10, 8, 2.21, .930)                                 Corey Crawford (30-17-7, 0, 2.72, .903)
 
This is poised to be one of the best series of the first round as both teams are playing well headed into the playoffs.  The Coyotes have won 7 of their last ten on their way to winning the Pacific division, and the Hawks have won 6 of their last ten.  On paper, the Blckhawks appear to be a better team, but inconsistencies, and the fact the Coyotes are a solid team seem to point a different direction.
 
Forwards:
If you look at the Phoeniz lineup, it’s easy to see that they are extremely top heavy when it comes to production.  101 of their 216 goals came from their Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan, their only 20+ goal scorers.  The Coyotes ranked 18th in the league in goals scored, but like other playoff teams relied on their ability to keep pucks out of their net to win games.  Vrbata has the uncanny knack to score big goals whenever his team needs it, and Ray Whitney keeps producing game in and game out despite the fact he’s getting up there in age.  Doan has been the face of this franchise since they were in Winnipeg, and you won’t find a guy more willing to lay everything on the line every shift.  He’s the type of guy you don’t want to see as a defenseman over the course of a long season.  The Blackhawks on the other hand are purely offensively oriented with their 6th ranked offense.  Their biggest threats are Marion Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews who though haven’t having played since February 19th appears ready to return for the start of this series.  Toews had 29 goals and 57 points in only 59 games this year, but has the ability to take over a series as he’s shown in the past.  There aren’t many guys in the league who are as competitive as this guy who is well on his way to taking over the nickname of captain Canada from Ryan Smyth.  When it comes to shutting down the Yotes, look for Dave Bolland to get a lot of ice time.  A solid two-way guy who managed to pop in 19 goals this year, he should get the honor of facing the Coyotes top line.  With the status of Toews up in the air, look for Marian Hossa to step up.  All this guy does is produce in the playoffs having scored 97 points in 127 career playoff games.  The Blackhawks have the firepower to win the series, but the Coyotes do a great job of hanging around and making key plays and scoring big goals seemingly whenever they need them.
Edge: Blackhawks
 
Defense:
This is where the teams are very similar despite being very different.  The Hawks have one of the elite shutdown D pairings in the league with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.  They are going to be key in this series especially with the lack of secondary production the Coyotes have.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys playing between 27-20 minutes a night.  One of my favorite up and comers in the league is Nick Leddy who had 34 assists this year, but can be inconsistent in his own end.  The Coyotes play it more of a conventional style, trying to keep their two way guys Keith Yandle (43 pts) and Oiver Ekmar-Larsson paired with more stay at home type guys in Derek Morris and Michal Rozsival. Ok, Rozsival not so much.  The Yotes get more offensive production out of their blue line, but lack the shut down capabilities of the Blackhawks.
Edge: Blackhawks
 
Goalie:
There may not be a hotter goaltender in the NHL right now than Mike Smith.  Having the dubious task of taking the reigns from Ilya Bryzgalov, Smith has had a Vezina caliber campaign, being amongst the league leaders in shutouts, goals against and save percentage.  There have been plenty of games he has stolen for his team, and given the fact he faces a ton of shots every night, it’s not always easy.  The situation for the Hawks hasn’t been as steadfast.  Corey Crawford leads the way for the Hawks, but he only has one playoff series of experience, albeit an impressive one.  The Hawks were only 22nd in the league in goals allowed this year, and while some of it can be placed on the complacency of the guys in front of them, Chicago’s goalies have had their fair share of the blame.  If Chicago struggles to beat Mike Smith, this series can get real interesting if it comes own to the weight of the world being on Corey Crawford’s shoulders.
Edge: Coyotes
 
Special Teams:
Not a whole lot can be said in this category beside yuck and meh.  The Hawks finished the regular season with the 24th ranked PP unit and were awful with the 27th ranked PP squad.  Hard to believe when you look at the talent they throw out there for these situations.  The Coyotes are even worse on the PP with the 2nd to last ranked PP unit scoring only 13.8% of the time on the man advantage, but behind Mike Smith had the 8th best PK unit.  Neither team gave up an excessive amount of PP chances, but if it comes down to it, you have to wonder what the Hawks and all their skill can muster against a tough Coyotes kill.
Edge: Coyotes
 
This may be the hardest series of them all to judge.  Phoenix has flown under the radar all year, but they are just a solid team and so tough to play against.  If Jonathan Toews can come back without the rust and be dynamic, you have to think he could be the main difference maker in a series like this.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7
 

Blog Photo - 2012 NHL Playoff Preview - Western Conference
#4 Nashville Predators                                                                 #5 Detroit Red Wings
11-12 Record: 48-26-8  104 Pts                                                 11-12 Record: 48-28-6  102pts
                                                            Season Series: Tied 3-3
Leading Scorers
Goals – Patrick Hornqvist – 27                                                    Johan Franzen – 29
Assists – Ryan Suter/Martin Erat – 39                                        Pavel Datsyuk – 48
Points – Martin Erat – 58                                                               Henrik Zetterberg – 69
Goalie Comparisons (Record, SO, GAA, Save%)
Pekka Rinne (43-18-8, 5, 2.39, .923)                                  Jimmy Howard (35-17-4, 6, 2.13, .920)
 
Just like the 4-5 matchup in the East, we have a matchup of division rivals squaring off in the first round of the playoffs here.  The Red Wings, even though they managed 102 points don’t seem to have the same sheen on them this year.  The Wings reeled off a 21 game home winning streak at one point during the year, but they were only 17-21-3 on the road.  If ever there was a time for the Preds to step up and make a franchise defining statement, this has to be the year.
 
Forwards:
Despite having the 8th ranked offense in the league, the Preds only had 2 20+ goal scorers (Hornqvist-27, and Fisher-24). They, possibly more than any other playoff team really rely on scoring up and down their entire lineup.  Other than the guys mentioned above, the Predators had 7 guys who netted 15 or more goals this year.  They are an unbelievably tough forechecking team, and it is that depth that they will again rely upon as the playoffs start.  One guy to keep an eye on in this series will be David Legwand who had 19 goals this year, but is the kind of guy who can shine against the Wings (he did have 5 points in the season series to lead the Predators).  The other guy who a lot of people don’t know about is Alex Radulov who left the Preds 3 years ago to play in Russia, but came back for the final 9 games of the season and had 7 points.  He has superstar skills and brings an element none of the other Nashville forwards can.  The Wings are a lot like the Predators.  They did not have a 30 goal scorer but were 7th in the league in scoring this year.  They are led by Pavel Datsyuk who is an absolute magician with the puck, and Johan Franzen who seems to always step up with big goals at big times.  Henrik Zetterberg had a bit of a down year by his standards but still led the team in points and has 99 points in 104 career playoff games.  They have the advantage when it comes to their top 6 compared to the Preds, and all of their forwards do a great job of helping out in the defensive zone, and the fact they have been in this position before..  One sleeper on the Wings side will be Valteri Filppula.
Advantage: Red Wings
 
Defense:
It seems as though Nicklas Lidstrom just doesn’t age like normal humans.  The 41 year old heads up the crop of D of the Wings that have the ability to shut down opponents and chip in with offense with regularity.  Lidstrom managed 11 goals and 34 points in 70 games, but wasn’t the leading scoring defensive Swede for the Wings.  That distinction belongs to Niklas Kronwall who had 15 goals and 36 points.  Joining them are talented guys such as Brad Stuart, Ian White and Jonathan Ericsson who helped the Red Wings to the 7th ranked defensive team in the league.  The Predators have probably the toughest set of d-men in the league in Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.  Weber is a bear to play against, has a hell of a shot and is probably the best all-around defenseman in the league.  And Suter is no slouch himself as he had 46 points on the year.  They will see a lot of ice time in this series, but they also have help in Kevin Klein and Roman Josi, and offensive minded Ryan Ellis.  They have a huge advantage other teams don’t in that they aren’t intimidated by the Wings.
Advantage: Predators
 
Goalie:
This series will showcase a pair of extremely talented goalies.  Pekka Rinne of the Predators has established himself among the league’s elite as shown by his stats and his ability to take over a game and unbelievable agility by such a big man.  The one question mark I have is what will he have left in the tank as he appeared in 73 games (tied for the league lead with Jonas Hiller), 72 of which he started.  At the other end we have Jimmy Howard who in his 3 years as the Wings starting goalie has racked up 37, 37, and 35 wins.  Howard was in the top 10 in the league in GAA and save % this year and has made a name for being one of the top goalies in the league. 
Edge: Predators (barely)
 
Special Teams:
If the Red Wings have had an Achilles heel this year it has been with their special teams groups.  Normally one of the top PP teams in the league, the Wings finished the regular season as the 22nd best unit scoring at 16.2% despite getting the 4th most chances.  On the flip side, they were only the 21st best team when shorthanded.  This could turn out to be huge considering the Preds had the league’s best power play, clicking at 21.7%.  They were one of only 3 playoff teams to have top 10 ranked power plays and penalty kills. 
Edge: Predators
 
This could be the best all-around team the Predators have ever fielded and they feel it is their best chance to make a deep playoff run.  They’ve only won one playoff series in franchise history and face one of the most storied franchises in the league’s history.  However, if there was ever a year the Wings could be poised to lose in the first round this is it.  They may have rattled off 21 straight home wins at one point, but they have struggled mightily on the road.  Rinne or Howard is going to have to steal a win on the rod, and the first one to do so will clearly put their team in the drivers seat.
Prediction: Predators in 6

Keep an eye out for my Western Conference preview on Tuesday night, and don't be afraid to watch as I will be doing everything I can to tweet during all the games.  How do you find me? @StoneyinCO
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4/14/12   |   Debi_L   |   11301 respect

(Edited by Debi_L)

We'll get some threads up, I promise 

And here it is!!

4/14/12   |   Canadianhick   |   2147 respect

(Edited by Canadianhick)

Wheres the damn live thread so we can talk about Vancouver and how much they dive and embellish? Anyway, LA rules!!!!! Look for Mike Gillis to have a press conference tomorrow.

4/12/12   |   ML31   |   3624 respect

BTW...  You may prove to be prophetic in picking Sharks...  I'm a Sharks supporter and even I have a hard time seeing them win the series.  Even after taking game 1.

4/12/12   |   ML31   |   3624 respect

The Western Conference is just way more interesting than the east.  Every match up is intriguing. 

4/12/12   |   kteacher   |   34003 respect

laugh

4/12/12   |   Canadianhick   |   2147 respect

One more post and I'm done, Mike Richards is as we all know is beast come these time of season. You look behind the bench and see Darryl Sutter. Guess what? Mike Richards is the ideal Sutter player. That's just a thought to keep in mind. What a beautiful hit by Mike Richards on of the biggest if not the biggest wuss in the NHL.

4/12/12   |   Canadianhick   |   2147 respect

LOL, anybody see this last night, Doughty telling Kesler to go "jerk off"?

4/12/12   |   Canadianhick   |   2147 respect

(Edited by Canadianhick)

Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler are gutless little pukes........

This pounding headache sure mad this night better.

God, I love Darryl Sutter hockey! Mike Richards too! Good to see Penner pot the winner too!

Suck a big fat one you diving Olympic Swimmers!

smiley

4/12/12   |   Debi_L   |   11301 respect

GO KINGS!!!! 1-1 tie in the second with the Kings on the power play.....where's the live thread??? 


Ooops, I guess I coulda done that when I got home from work blush

4/11/12   |   The_Real_Stoney   |   24080 respect

The Fan in Toronto is saying no Daniel Sedin for game 1 tonight vs the Kings

4/11/12   |   The_Real_Stoney   |   24080 respect

The_Real_Stoney wrote:
Quick notes today:
No Brian Elliott on the ice for the Blues today per Andy Strickland
Per Barry Trotz, Hal Gill should be ready to go tonight

And it looks official, Jaroslav Halak will start game 1

4/11/12   |   The_Real_Stoney   |   24080 respect

Quick notes today:
No Brian Elliott on the ice for the Blues today per Andy Strickland
Per Barry Trotz, Hal Gill should be ready to go tonight

4/11/12   |   Debi_L   |   11301 respect

Soooooo Sedin did NOT skate with the team yesterday, I was mistaken, I guess it was the day before when things were looking promising.  given that I live in BC, the radio airwaves are rampant with Canuck updates.  crying It isn't looking like he will be in the lineup tonight.  GO KINGS!!!

4/11/12   |   kobe_lova   |   59564 respect

Is this where I say GO KINGS?!

4/11/12   |   Debi_L   |   11301 respect

hartley51592 wrote:
I have Nashville in the Western Final at least! Really feel like they have something special this year. 

Have to agree.  I have been really impressed by them this year.  I don't think Detroit has much for them, honestly.

4/10/12   |   hartley51592   |   2462 respect

Debi_L wrote:
BTW I agree with your Predators pick angel

I have Nashville in the Western Final at least! Really feel like they have something special this year. 

4/10/12   |   Debi_L   |   11301 respect

BTW I agree with your Predators pick angel

4/10/12   |   Debi_L   |   11301 respect

Daniel Sedin skated before the rest of the team this morning (yesterday morning?? I've been sick, so not sure) and skated with the rest of the team.  However, there is no word yet on whether he will play.

For the record, I can't stand the Canucks.  We are allowed to wear jerseys to work at the Liquor Store, but only if they are Canucks jerseys.  This sucks.  If Calgary were in the playoffs I would fight a lot harder, but for now I am just pinning my Kings pin to my purse and wearing my Kings socks under my pants.  

Another stellar job Young Stoney!!

4/10/12   |   kteacher   |   34003 respect

(Edited by kteacher)

yes

LOL....my picks are the complete opposite of yours. Great job. lol


Oh...and here's a pic of the twins.