Advertisement

Stanley Cup playoffs: Western Conference preview and predictions

Stanley Cup playoffs: Western Conference preview and predictions
Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi, right, celebrates with Wayne Simmonds, top, and Rocco Grimaldi after scoring a goal against the Minnesota Wild on March 5. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars

Power play: Predators 12.9% (31st); Stars 21.0% (11th).

Advertisement

Penalty killing: Predators 82.1% (6th); Stars 82.8% (5th).

Top scorers: Predators, Ryan Johansen 14-50—64; Stars, Tyler Seguin 33-47—80.

Outlook: The Predators ranked No. 1 overall last season but struggled at times this season and had to win their last three games to clinch the Central Division. Wayne Simmonds had one goal and three points in 17 games after being acquired from Philadelphia but can have an influence with his physicality. Nashville’s power play was terrible, but power-play production isn’t essential for playoff success. Stars goalie Ben Bishop led the NHL with a .934 save percentage and was second in goals-against average at 1.98, but his frequent injuries are a reason to worry. The Stars ranked 29th in goals per game at 2.55 and lack depth after Seguin, Alexander Radulov (29 goals, 72 points) and Jamie Benn (27 goals, 53 points). Mats Zuccarello returns from a broken arm.

Pick: Nashville in seven.

Predators vs. Stars

Series Day Time (PDT)
SeriesGame 1 DayWednesday at Nashville Time (PDT)6:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 2 DaySaturday at Nashville Time (PDT)3 p.m.
SeriesGame 3 DayMonday at Dallas Time (PDT)6:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 4 DayApril 17 at Dallas Time (PDT)5 p.m.
SeriesGame 5* DayApril 20 at Nashville Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 6* DayApril 22 at Dallas Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 7* DayApril 24 at Nashville Time (PDT)TBD

Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues

Power play: Jets 24.8% (4th); Blues 21.1% (10th).

Penalty killing: Jets 79.1% (23rd); Blues 81.5% (9th).

Top scorers: Jets, Blake Wheeler 20-71—91; Blues, Ryan O’Reilly 28-49—77.

Outlook: These teams were going in opposite directions as the regular season ended. The Jets’ 2-4-1 slide dropped them out of the Central Division lead, while the Blues won eight of their last 10. The teams’ season series was completed by the time the Blues began to climb out of the bottom spot, so it’s impossible to predict this series based on those results. Wheeler matched his career-best point total and Patrik Laine reached 30 goals despite a ghastly slump. Mark Scheifele (38 goals) and Kyle Connor (34 goals) also are threats. The Blues’ rebirth under interim coach Craig Berube has been led by goalie Jordan Binnington, who compiled a league-best 1.89 goals-against average in 32 games. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, recovered from hip surgery, has meshed well with Colton Parayko.

Pick: St. Louis in six.

Jets vs. Blues

Series Day Time (PDT)
SeriesGame 1 DayWednesday at Winnipeg Time (PDT)5 p.m.
SeriesGame 2 DayFriday at Winnipeg, 6:30 Time (PDT)6:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 3 DaySunday at St. Louis Time (PDT)4:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 4 DayTuesday at St. Louis Time (PDT)6:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 5* DayApril 18 at Winnipeg Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 6* DayApril 20 at St. Louis Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 7* DayApril 22 at Winnipeg Time (PDT)TBD

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

Power play: Flames 19.3% (18th); Avalanche 22.0% (7th).

Advertisement

Penalty killing: Flames 79.7% (21st); Avalanche 78.7% (25th).

Top scorers: Flames, Johnny Gaudreau 33-66—99; Avalanche, Nathan MacKinnon 41-58—99.

Outlook: Forwards Gaudreau, Sean Monahan (34 goals, 82 points), Elias Lindholm (27 goals, 78 points) and Matthew Tkachuk (34 goals, 77 points) hit career-best totals, and Mark Giordano was second in scoring among defensemen with 17 goals and 74 points. But the Flames’ goaltending is a question because neither David Rittich nor Mike Smith seized the No. 1 job. Can they win by using both? Colorado closed with a 7-1-2 surge to grab the second wild-card spot despite missing injured winger Mikko Rantanen. It’s unclear whether he will be ready for the opener. Goalie Philipp Grubauer played for Washington last season and started the Capitals’ first two games but was benched after giving up eight goals in two games.

Pick: Calgary in five.

Flames vs. Avalanche

Series Day Time (PDT)
SeriesGame 1 DayThursday at Calgary Time (PDT)7 p.m.
SeriesGame 2 DaySaturday at Calgary Time (PDT)7:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 3 DayMonday at Colorado Time (PDT)7 p.m.
SeriesGame 4 DayApril 17 at Colorado Time (PDT)7 p.m.
SeriesGame 5* DayApril 19 at Calgary Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 6* DayApril 21 at Colorado Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 7* DayApril 23 at Calgary Time (PDT)TBD

San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Power play: Sharks 23.6% (6th); Golden Knights 16.8% (25th).

Penalty killing: Sharks 80.8% (15th); Golden Knights 80.9% (14th).

Top scorers: Sharks, Brent Burns 16-67—83; Golden Knights, Jonathan Marchessault 25-34—59.

Outlook: The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the second round of last season’s playoffs, but both teams have made changes since then. San Jose acquired puck-moving defenseman Erik Karlsson from Ottawa to complement Burns, who led NHL defensemen in scoring, and Vegas tried to beef up its offense by adding Paul Stastny last summer, Max Pacioretty in September and Mark Stone before the deadline. The Golden Knights are still fast and a good transition team, but their scoring declined in a season when overall scoring went up: They averaged 3.0 goals per game, down from 3.27 in 2017-18. The Sharks tied for second at 3.52 goals per game but their .889 team save percentage ranked last in the NHL.

Pick: Vegas in seven.

Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Series Day Time (PDT)
SeriesGame 1 DayWednesday at San Jose Time (PDT)7:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 2 DayFriday at San Jose Time (PDT)7:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 3 DaySunday at Vegas Time (PDT)7 p.m.
SeriesGame 4 DayTuesday at Vegas Time (PDT)7:30 p.m.
SeriesGame 5* DayApril 18 at San Jose Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 6* DayApril 21 at Vegas Time (PDT)TBD
SeriesGame 7* DayApril 23 at San Jose Time (PDT)TBD
Advertisement
Advertisement