2019 NHL Western Conference Playoff Preview

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2019 WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF PREVIEW

The 2019 Western Conference playoff slate is certainly not reminiscent of 2018. Gone are Minnesota, Los Angeles and Anaheim. They have been replaced by Calgary, Dallas and St Louis for some different looking match ups in 2019. Calgary have been the dominant Western Conference package of 2018-19, tallying 107 points and topping both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, but do Johnny Hockey and the Flames have what it takes to bring the Stanley Cup back to Alberta for the first time since 1989?

Once again, San Jose, Nashville and Winnipeg have proven strong, and Vegas after a fairy tale run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, are back for more. Colorado and Dallas clinched the two wild card positions and St. Louis, off the back of some strong goaltending from rookie Jordan Binnington, find themselves truly in the mix. Get set for the wild wild west!

 

Calgary Flames (P1) vs Colorado Avalanche (WC2)

Thursday, April 11, 10 p.m.: Avalanche @ Flames | SN, CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN

Saturday, April 13, 10:30 p.m.: Avalanche @ Flames | SN, CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN

Monday, April 15, 10 p.m.: Flames @ Avalanche | CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports

Wednesday, April 17, 10 p.m.: Flames @ Avalanche | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Friday, April 19, TBD: Avalanche @ Flames | TBD

*Sunday, April 21, TBD: Flames @ Avalanche | TBD

*Tuesday, April 23, TBD: Avalanche @ Flames | TBD

Key Players

Calgary Flames Left Wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) celebrates a goal with teammates during the first period of an NHL game where the Calgary Flames hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 19, 2019, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Flames: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Mark Giordano

Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie

Head to Head

The Flames are there ones with the momentum here with a 3-0-0 record over the Avalanche in the 2018-19 regular season series.

The Lowdown

The Avalanche have come from the lows of last season to put themselves in the playoff picture in 2019. The good news for Colorado is they have enjoyed some solid form in Season 2018-19, led by the likes of Nathan MacKinnon who has been their lead goal and point scorer throughout the regular season. Along with the St Louis Blues, they enter the 2019 Playoffs with the best form in the league since March 17 with an 8-0-2 record in their final 10 games. The anticipated return of Mikko Rantanen will also be a major boost.

Facing them down is the imposing figure that is the 107-point Calgary Flames led by the forward affectionately known as “Johnny Hockey.” Johnny Gaudreau, who scored 99 points, led the Flames in scoring during the regular season. Calgary reached the 50-win mark for the first time in franchise history and a lot of Canadian hopes rest on the Flames’ shoulders in this playoff run.

The Flames will hope that their third period form will continue into the playoffs as they scored 118 goals and only allowed 64 in third periods, leading the league in both statistics.

Prediction

Set to be an entertaining series but predicting the Flames in 5 for this one.

 

Nashville Predators (C1) vs. Dallas Stars (WC2)

Wednesday, April 10, 9:30 p.m.: Stars @ Predators | USA, SN1, TVA Sports

Saturday, April 13, 6 p.m.: Stars @ Predators | CNBC, SN, TVA Sports

Monday, April 15, 9:30 p.m.: Predators @ Stars | NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports

Wednesday, April 17, 8 p.m. Predators @ Stars | USA, SN, TVA Sports

*Saturday, April 20, TBD: Stars @ Predators | TBD

*Monday, April 22, TBD: Predators @ Stars | TBD

*Wednesday, April 24, TBD: Stars @ Predators | TBD

Key Players

Viktor Arvidsson #33 and P.K. Subban #76 of the Nashville Predators congratulate teammate Ryan Johansen #92 on a goal against goalie Jacob Markstrom #25 of the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at Bridgestone Arena on April 04, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Predators: P.K Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Filip Forsberg

Stars: Ben Bishop, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn

Head To Head

The regular season series stands at 3-2-0 for the Predators in this match up.

The Lowdown

This match up is set to come down to defensive units versus goaltending. The Predators boast one of the best defensive line ups in the league and the Stars have a wealth of strength between the pipes with Ben Bishop (SV% .934 and GAA of 1.98) and Anton Khudobin backstopping Dallas.

The Predators possess a lot of depth as well as a strong power play unit and the Stars will need to do more than rely on goaltending to shut this down. Tyler Sequin and Jamie Benn will need to fire to support their goaltending strength to give the Stars the best chance.

Nashville has the edge in this series I feel, purely due to their depth and their ability to create strong offensive opportunities from solid defensive structure. They finished atop the Central Division again for a reason and will be tough to shut down for Dallas.

Prediction

Predicting the Predators in 6 in this one.

 

Winnipeg Jets (C2) vs. St. Louis Blues (C3)

Wednesday, April 10, 8 p.m.: Blues @ Jets | SN, TVA Sports, NHL Network

Friday, April 12, 9:30 p.m.: Blues @ Jets | SN, TVA Sports, CNBC

Sunday, April 14, 7:30 p.m.: Jets @ Blues | CNBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports

Tuesday, April 16, 9:30 p.m.: Jets @ Blues | CNBC, SN, TVA Sports

*Thursday, April 18, TBD: Blues @ Jets | TBD

*Saturday, April 20, TBD: Jets @ Blues | TBD

*Monday, April 22, TBD: Blues @ Jets | TBD

Key Players

St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) deflects the puck late in the game during a NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the St. Louis Blues on April 04, 2019, at Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Mo. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jets: Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien

Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Binnington, Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn

Head To Head

The Jets took the season series match up with a 3-1-0 record over the Blues

The Lowdown

Last year, the Jets had all of the Great White North on their side and were playing for national pride. This year, they have proved they have what it takes to get there. They now need to prove they have what it takes to go all the way. With a seesaw season, the Jets finished second in the Central and will face a rejuvenated St Louis Blues outfit.

The Blues have come from the depths, sitting last in the league at the start of the year. With some restructuring and discipline, they strung together a remarkable run to pull themselves into playoff contention and claimed the third spot in the Central.

The Jets, true to their name, have speed on their side. They are a fast and physical team and have the ability to create big chances off fast offensive plays. The Blues, if they can keep their momentum that has been their big success in the second half of the year, will prove up to the challenge and this series could well be a grind.

Prediction
This is set to be an arm wrestle with both teams out to prove a point and a series I feel could go all the way. The Jets speed and offensive skill will get them over the line I feel. Jets in 7.

 

San Jose Sharks (P2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (P3)

Wednesday, April 10, 10:30 p.m.: Golden Knights @ Sharks | NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports

Friday, April 12, 10:30 p.m.: Golden Knights @ Sharks | NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports

Sunday, April 14, 10 p.m.: Sharks @ Golden Knights | NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVA Sports

Tuesday, April 16, 10:30 p.m.: Sharks @ Golden Knights | NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports

*Thursday, April 18, TBD: Golden Knights @ Sharks | TBD

*Sunday, April 21, TBD: Sharks @ Golden Knights | TBD

*Tuesday, April 23, TBD: Golden Knights @ Sharks | TBD

Key Players

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) tries to redirect the puck against Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights on March 15, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sharks: Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Timo Meier

Golden Knights: Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Marc-Andre Fleury

Head To Head

The Sharks went 2-2-0 against Vegas during the regular season.

The Lowdown

‘The Cinderella Story’, ‘The Misfits’ — we heard it all last season as the Vegas Golden Knights pulled off the unthinkable, reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. They were taken down at the last hurdle by the Capitals and the result will sting and no doubt spur them on in this year’s playoffs. The Knights took the Pacific Division last season but did not reach those lofty heights this season, finishing third behind the Flames and playoff match up rivals the Sharks.

San Jose have been here before on several occasions and the Sharks will be keen to avenge their defeat at the hands of Vegas in the second round of the playoffs last season. Big name acquisition William Karlsson will shoulder a lot of expectation and hope from the San Jose faithful and William Karlsson will be looking to make an impact for the Golden Knights.

The Sharks possess a strong power play and the Golden Knights can forecheck with great impact. The Sharks feel more potent than last season and their firepower will come to the forefront in this series with pride on the line

Prediction

Sharks in 6.

 

Written by Chris McRae / @ChrisMcRae04

Special to HockeyClan

 

 

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