Puck77 Round Table: Who makes the Western Conference Playoffs and Why?

Our fantastic team of writers are gonna give you their predictions for the Western Conference Playoffs. (Don’t Take this to Vegas)

Justin Miner

Central Division:

  1. Winnipeg Jets: I predicted in the preseason that the Jets would win the Cup and I am not backing down.
  2. Nashville Predators: They still have the best defensive core in the league.
  3. St. Louis Blues: This looked like a sick joke at the beginning of the season, but they are playing inspired hockey with Jordan Binnington in net.

Pacific Division:

  1. San Jose Sharks: Erik Karlsson has come on strong lately and Martin Jones has been a bit more consistent lately.
  2. Calgary Flames: If they add some depth scoring and sure up their backup goaltending, this will be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
  3. Vegas Golden Knights: The clock has not yet struck midnight for this Cinderella story. Marc-Andre Fleury should be in the Vezina conversation.

Wild Cards:

  1. Chicago Blackhawks: Colin Delia has steadied the Goalie situation in Corey Crawford‘s absence and Patrick Kane may be the leading Hart Trophy candidate right now.
  2. Vancouver Canucks: Elias Pettersson may be the most exciting rookie in Canucks’ history. If he leads them to the playoffs, they may erect a statue in his honor and retire his jersey while he is still wearing it.

Nikos Michals

1 – Winnipeg Jets – Canada’s best chance of winning a Cup. I am a Leafs fan and I wrote this. The Jets could find themselves winning the central for the 1st time in their franchise history and are heading for a deep playoff run.

2 – San Jose Sharks – If they got a consistent effort from Martin Jones, they would be my cup favorite. The Sharks are going to make the playoffs but their biggest questions remain in net.

3 – Nashville Predators – “He shoots, he scores, you suck!” “It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” “We’re gonna beat the hell outta of you, you, you.” “He sucks! He sucks, too!” That is what you’re going to hear from the crowd at Bridgestone when the ‘Preds score a goal. I can’t wait.

4 – Vegas Golden Knights – Cup finalist from a year prior. Since this teams inception, it has been taken for granted. This would be an unwise decision. Vegas is a sneaky good team that still finds ways to surprise the opposition with their quick transition game and out of this world goaltending by “The Flower.”

5 – Calgary Flames – *Insert team being hot or on fire joke

6 – St. Louis Blues – Beginning of 2018-19 season: “Wow we are finally Cup contenders”; Middle of 2018-19 season: “Wow we suck”; 3/4 through the 2018-19 season: “Wow we are a Cup Contender”

7 – Colorado Avalanche – Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog. When Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer remember how to stop a puck, this team will be back in the playoff hunt. They have dropped 7 in a row but are only 4 points out. If they go on a little run, they can make their way back out of a Wild Card spot and back into the top 3 in the central again.

8 – Chicago Blackhawks – Winners of 7 straight (When I wrote this 2/11) Patrick Kane might hit 100 points for the 2nd time in his career and Corey Crawford is nearing a return. It’s hard to NOT think this team is destined to break its playoff drought of 1 year.

Kevin Tipper

When looking at the Western Conference, I see 4 dominant teams, and 10 teams on the brink of being competitive, Here is my prediction for the playoffs picture in the West.

Pacific Division:

  1. San Jose Sharks: They have been on a tear as of late, winning without Erik Karlsson. Once he is healthy, they will widen the gap between them and the Flames.
  2. Calgary Flames: With the Gaudreau/Monahan/Lindholm line clicking on all cylinders, and 3rd in the league in Goals For as a team. They will be able to keep their spot as the number 2 in the West.
  3. Vegas Golden Knights: Finally having a healthy roster, they should be able to get out of their recent funk, and make a strong push for the second time in a row in the playoffs.
  4. Vancouver Canucks: Two points behind Minnesota for the last wild card spot, but with the Wild losing their heart in Miko Koivu, they will fall out of that last spot soon enough. The Canucks also have one of the best schedules down the stretch, where they should be able to win some meaningful games.

Central Division:

  1. Winnipeg Jets: Looking to make a big addition before the trade deadline, and looking to get Patrik Laine back on track, they should be able to beat Nashville for the top spot in the Central Division.
  2. Nashville Predators: 10th in goals for, but last in the NHL in PowerPlay %, which hinders them from being able to take the top spot in the Central. If Pekka Rinne can stand on his head like 2 years ago, the Predators should be able to get back to the Conference Finals.
  3. Dallas Stars: 2nd in the NHL in Goals Against on the season, their defense is making up for their lack of offense. Their star players Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are heating up just in time for the final stretch of the season.
  4. St. Luis Blues: Finally finding a true starting goaltender in Jordan Binnington, they have turned their terrible start to the season around. They have been picking up steam and turning into the team everyone thought they would be before the season started.

Tony Ferrari

There are 6 teams currently with a realistic shot at the wild card spots along with the Dallas Stars who are currently the only team within 5 points of the wildcard teams.

Top Three Seeds

The Pacific division top three is fairly set. The San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights are all securely in their divisional spots. Calgary and San Jose will battle for the top spot in the division.

The Central division is a little more top heavy with Winnipeg and Nashville being the clear front runners that have Stanley Cup aspirations. The Dallas Stars are currently in the third spot in the division but only two point up on the St. Louis Blues who are currently sitting in a wildcard spot. The Blues have been hot as of late, going 8-2-0 in their last ten and climbing out of the basement. The Blues should have no issue passing the Stars for that third spot.

Wildcard Showdown

The wildcard race is completely insane. With almost no team out of it, that leaves the Stars, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers all fighting for the two Wildcard spots.

Unfortunately for Arizona the staggering amount of injuries they have, combined with the lack of remaining star power up front, making it tough for them. While it’s not impossible, it’s highly likely that this year they won’t make it to the post season.

The Edmonton Oilers are going to have to make an effort and do something crazy at the deadline. Even then the most likely scenario is them still missing the playoffs, ever so slightly. The Wild are missing their captain Mikko Koivu for the remainder of the year. They’re also aging quickly. They could use a major shakeup and could be sellers at the deadline if that’s the direction the team decides to go. The Canucks are young, inexperienced and have goal-tending issues. It would be wise for them to not over buy in order to earn the right to a first round exit.

That leaves Colorado, Chicago and Dallas who are three teams in different situations. Dallas has had a fire under them, led by Tyler Seguin, and are beginning to play well enough to grab the top wildcard spot. Between Colorado’s recent struggles due to over reliance on their top line and Chicago’s recent ascension from the basement, Colorado missing and Chicago being the second early-mid season basement dweller to climb into the playoffs isn’t out of the question.

Connor Criscuola

Central Division

1. WPG
The Jets will hold steady on first place in the Central because of strong goaltending from Hellybuck and a strong offense led by Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Kyle Connor.
2. NSH
The Predators will still right on the heels of WPG, but will stay just behind them. Pekka Rinne will keep pace, and the impressive defense led by PK Subban and Roman Josi will lead this team into another playoff match up.
3. STL
The Blues will continue this impressive pace, led my Vladimir Taresenko and a resurgent Alex Pieterangelo. The main concern for St. Louis is questionable goaltending, but if they keep on this pace, they’ll make the playoffs regardless.
 

Pacific Division

1. CGY
The Flames will make the playoffs and win their division on the back of a Norris caliber season by Mark Giordano and another impressive season from Johnny Gaudreau.
2. SJS
Erik Karlsson will come back and help the Sharks maintain pace and make the playoffs. The offense and defense on the Sharks is formidable and goaltendinghas begun to be consistent, everything necessary to make the playoffs.
3. VGK
The additions of Paul Statsny and Max Pacioretty have propelled the Knights into another playoff spot. William Karlsson is proving last year wasn’t a fluke. Marc-Andre Fleury will be his usual amazing self in net. The Knights might make a play for second in the division.
 

Wild Card

1. DAL
The Stars will maintain the WC1 slot, based on the performance of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Goaltending needs to improve for them to move up into the division race.
2. VAN
The Canucks are putting it together at the right moment, and Elias Petersson is having a Calder Trophy quality season. If the Canucks continue to produce on the PP and receive the consistent goaltending they desperately need, they’ll surpass MIN and take the final wild card slot.
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some stats provided by hockey-reference.com and nhl.com
 

Author: Justin Miner