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Western Conference Semi-Final Matchups set: What to look for


This weekend starts the 2011 Western Conference Semi-Finals and it’s time to make an early set of predictions for these with a little break down of each one of these series and why the winner will win (PLUS the Vancouver/Nashville series will get a more in-depth break down later on today)

After the jump, we’ll look at how correct my predictions were for the Western Conference Quarterfinal matchups:

Vancouver VS Chicago

Prediction: “Vancouver in 5. Canucks exorcise their 2 year old demons by dispatching the Hawks in the United Center. Chelsea Dagger? Finally silenced.

Actual: Vancouver beat the defending Stanley Cup champions after going up 3-0 and then the Cup champs came storming back. Victories in game 4, 5, and 6 got the Hawks within 1 of a HUGE upset of the President’s Trophy winners. However, Alex Burrows wouldn’t let it happen. 2 goals in Game 7 with the OT winner gave the Canucks a 1st round series win in 7 games

Offset: 2 games (2 Vancouver wins)

San Jose VS Los Angeles

Prediction: “San Jose in 5. Too much for Los Angeles to handle. Without Kopitar and Williams, it’s going to hurt L.A. more seriously than people think. SJ is, unfortunately, going to steamroll LA, leaving Kings fans to wonder what would have happened if they would have been healthy

Actual: Almost right on the dot with this one. San Jose ended up taking this in 6 games after LA attempted to try and pull even in game 6 after being down 3-1 in the series.

Offset: 1 game (1 San Jose win)

Detroit VS Phoenix

Prediction: “Coyotes in 6. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Detroit does not escape the first round this year. I want them to so Nashville has a chance to play them in a later round, but Phoenix has superior goaltending in my opinion and queitly may have a better on-ice product than the Wings do

Actual: Well…could I have been more wrong? The Wings swept. Phoenix did NOT have superior goaltending and their on-ice product? May be moving to Winnipeg, folks.

Offset: 6 games (4 Phoenix wins, 2 Detroit wins)

Anaheim VS Nashville

Prediction: “Final – Nashville wins the series over Anaheim, 4 games to 1

Nashville is going to split the home series in Anaheim before taking full advantage of home ice in games 3 and 4, getting a timely shut-out from Pekka Rinne after rebounding from a loss in game 2 and getting an empty netter to seal game 4.

Now, the drama comes in game 5. Nashville has NEVER won a game 5…until this season. The game will go to overtime, however Nashville will kill 3 birds with 1 stone (OT win, game 5 win, series win) as Shea Weber will blast a shot from the point to the back of the net and send the Predators dancing into the second round and back home to celebrating crowd.

Actual: Well…I was ALMOST right! Called a near perfect Game 5 (Excluding the game winning goal and series win, I called the 4-3 OT win), but Nashville ended up winning at home in front of their fans during Game 6

Offset: 1 game (1 Nashville win)

Western Conference Quarterfinal Record: 3-1

On to the matchups!



Looking At San Jose: You hear that thud? That’s the sound of the 1-ton anvil dropping off the back of Joe Thornton. The man who has continually been lauded as a “playoff bust” was the man to send Los Angeles packing in the first round and move the Sharks one step closer to a Stanley Cup Finals berth. With all of San Jose’s proverbial cylinders clicking right now, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle Detroit. San Jose has one of the most lethal offenses in the league and if Antti Niemi doesn’t break, San Jose will be pretty dangerous for the rest of the season

Looking At Detroit: Sweeping Phoenix out of the first round and getting over a week’s worth of rest, Detroit will be coming into San Jose ready to get revenge in a rematch of last year’s 5 game domination by San Jose. The Wings should be fully healthy starting out, however you have to wonder if the 9 or so days of rest will hinder Detroit more than help them. The colder a team is going into later rounds may not be the best for them. However, look at it this way: A 100% healthy Detroit Red Wings team is a very scary Detroit Red Wings team

Martel’s Pick: Detroit in 7. This series is going to be an ugly brawl fest. I believe it’s going to be high-scoring and shootouts the entire series. Expect 3-4 overtime games as well. Personally, I believe home ice will be the winning factor for this series, but Detroit will get the best of San Jose in Game 7


Looking At Vancouver: Is it safe to say Vancouver “squeaked” by Chicago in the first round? I think so, as Vancouver took a 3-0 lead on the defending cup champs but then gave up 3 straight games, gave up the tying goal in game 7 with 2 minutes left, but finally dispatched Chicago in overtime to give them a victory after 7 hard fought games, although it should have only been 4. With Vancouver’s goaltending questions (although, those might have been resolved in game 7) and their penalty problems, are these just uncharacteristic first round jitters? Or are the league-leaders a little more fragile than people think?

Looking At Nashville: A first round series win. An overtime win. A game 5 win. All firsts for the Nashville Predators, and they don’t mean to make it their last firsts either. The Predators will be aiming to take their team to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in their franchise history and will be looking to do so against a possibly drained Canucks team. If Nashville can fix up the holes in their Penalty Kill and Pekka Rinne plays the ENTIRE series like the Vezina-finalist he is, Vancouver is going to have a tough time with Nashville. Pekka Rinne is a tad bit better than Corey Crawford. Shea Weber/Ryan Suter are a tad bit better than Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook

Martel’s Pick: Nashville in 6. The Predators will take another series on home ice to lead them to their first ever Western Conference Finals appearance. Vancouver may be a little more tired than people think, physically/emotionally after that Chicago series, and Nashville is going to exploit it. As Vancouver was the highest-penalized team in the first round, Nashville knows how to draw penalties from other teams and will use that to their advantage

I’ll have a more in-depth look at the Vancouver/Nashville series later on today!

Thanks for reading!