CFB Playoff Predictions (Western)

CFB Playoff Predictions (Western)

    8

    The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Western Conference.

    (1) SAN JOSE Vs. (8) COLORADO

    The San Jose Sharks have the top line in hockey with Thornton (89), Marleau (83), and Heatley (82). Patrick Marleau had a coming out season with 44 goals – a career high. Dany Heatley, to some, can be considered underachieving with 39 goals, but he is certainly back on track. This was the most consistent line for Team Canada on the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal winning roster. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is a bit of an iron man in net, and this season he posted his second highest win record with 44, but he did it in 71 games, as opposed to his 2007-08 46 win campaign in 76 starts. The real question is whether or not San Jose can motivate themselves to continue their strong regular season play in the post-season – a task they’ve yet to accomplish. They hope to do that with a more veteran lineup as they are the 4th oldest team in the league.

    The Colorado Avalanche are heading into the playoffs with Adam Foote and Darcy Tucker leading the veteran charge. Adam Foote has two Stanley Cup rings and is a crucial component in showing the young blood on the team how to win the big games. They have a never say die attitude with many late game pushes and overtime victories, but their youth is a big question mark for this club. Wojtek Wolski was dealt away for Peter Mueller, the latter being injured by a hit from Rob Blake and is now out indefinitely with a concussion. But the Avalanche have something the Sharks do not – Craig Anderson. With a team that is finally getting a chance at the playoff dance, Anderson has received more attention in the league and is now considered a legitimate number one goaltender. A strong showing in the post-season would quiet the critics, and this team certainly has a chance to do so by capitalizing on the Sharks mythical ability to fold under pressure. If this series goes long and the Avalanche get their youth rolling, the Sharks are in trouble.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Adam
    Dan
    George
    SJS in 4
    SJS in 6
    SJS in 6
    SJS in 6
    COL in 7

    SJS in 4
    SJS in 4

    (2) CHICAGO Vs. (7) NASHVILLE

    This could be the most lopsided playoff series considering the Chicago Blackhawks are the second highest total team salary and they are taking on the third lowest payroll in the league. The Blackhawks are also flaunting six 20+ goal scorers, while the Nashville Predators are coming in with only two. Chicago also features five 50+ points players, while the Predators feature *cough* two *cough*. This is the third highest offensive, and the fifth best goals against team in the league despite average and inconsistent play from Cristobal Huet. Antti Niemi should be looked to in carrying this team as he posted 7 shutouts and a 0.912 SV% in just 39 starts. The one question mark this team poses seems to be a bit of a curse. Marian Hossa played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 playoffs and lost to Detroit. A year later, he lost to the Penguins as a member of the Red Wings. It seems no matter who he plays for, they lose. Until he can solve that problem, it will continue to be considered the Hossa Curse.

    The most interesting part about the Nashville Predators primary objective in winning this series is to just kill the game. They are even on the goals for and against ratio with 225, and contain very similar home and road win records (24-24-3 at home, and 23-15-3 on the road). The Predators scoring charge is led by a break-out season by Patric Hornqvist – a somewhat unknown to North American fans. But the scoring is sporadic amongst the Predators lineup with ten 10 goal players. The Predators do have a significant positive to look forward to – goaltending. While many teams are going into the post-season hoping their netminders catch fire, the Predators have two solid goaltenders who can easily step in and provide a smooth, and strong performance in net. Pekka Rinne finished the year with a 0.911 SV% and 7 shutouts, while back up Dan Ellis had a 0.909 SV% and 1 shutout. Defense could very well be the most important aspect of this series; however, the Blackhawks won 4 of 6 meetings this season and outscored the Predators 14-12.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Adam
    Dan
    George
    CHI in 4

    CHI in 6
    CHI in 5

    CHI in 5

    CHI in 5

    CHI in 6

    CHI in 5

    (3) VANCOUVER Vs. (6) LOS ANGELES

    The Vancouver Canucks are the second highest scoring team in the league, but have struggled in net as of late. Luongo has let in 3 goals or more in his last 4 starts, including an 8 goal flatline against the Kings on April 1st. That said, the Sedin twins have more than made up for any defensive lapses with Henrik winning the scoring title and likely considered for the Hart Trophy. Add to that the Gold Medal winning goaltender in Luongo, who despite his recent shortcomings has proven he knows how to win under pressure. There are only two points seperating these two in the standings, and could potentially be the tightest series of the post-season. The Canucks have an average penalty kill unit, but have scored 9 shorthanded goals on the year, thanks primarily to Alexandre Burrows with 5 of those tallies. The Canucks have a much better home record (30-8-3) compared to the Kings road record (24-14-3), and with home-ice advange, Vancouver should take each home game. If the Canucks can outscore the Kings on the 5 on 5 play, this series should be theirs to lose. That said, only the Colorado Avalanche have made the post-season out of the same division as the Canucks.

    The Los Angeles Kings are the second youngest team in the league, but have a gritty, in your face attitude. They are a mature, youthful team with great two-way play, and enjoy the physical aspect of the game. The offensive battle will be between the Sedins of the Canucks, and the shutdown tandem of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson. If Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown can fight their way into the slot for the garbage goals, this series could get mean in a hurry. There is one sluggish aspect of the Kings recent performances, and that is of goaltender Johnathan Quick – who is winless since he beat the Avalanche on March 22nd; a losing streak of nine games. This could be the longest series of the first round, but ultimately could lead to the Stanley Cup winner. It’s safe to say the road for either team will not get easier from here.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Adam
    Dan
    George
    VAN in 6

    VAN in 6
    LAK in 5

    LAK in 7

    VAN in 5

    LAK in 7

    VAN in 6

    (4) PHOENIX Vs. (5) DETROIT

    The Phoenix Coyotes have been a strong performer all year long in spite of the lack of support. They are a surprise team and have set a franchise record for points with 107. Surprisingly, their dominance was at home (29 wins, 3rd in league) in front of a mediocre crowd, but that won’t be the same story come playoff time. Compare that to the Red Wings road record (19-14-8), and it’s unlikely they will be able to dominate the Coyotes in 4 of 7 as the visitors. This is a well balanced team with a ton of excitement, yet no player has reached the 30 goal plateau, and just three players reached the 50 point mark (Wolski, Doan and Lombardi). Ilya Bryzgalov could be the story of the series. He capped off a near-tying career year with a 0.920 SV% and 8 shutouts in 69 appearances. He was also considered by many Russian fans to be the number one goaltender for the Olympic team, despite not getting the opportunity to lead the them in goal.

    The Detroit Red Wings’ performance as of late has once again sparked them as a high contender for the cup. In their last ten games, they have an 8-1-1 record, and despite injuries climbed themselves not only back into a playoff spot, but nearly challenged the Blackhawks for the division crown. Once again, this team is questioned by age. Will their stamina through potential long series’ be sufficient enough to reach the Stanley Cup Finals? There is no lack in leadership and skill, but goaltending could be a problem. Rookie Jimmy Howard (0.924 SV%) is more than likely to get the nod due to Chris Osgood’s poor performance in the regular season (0.888 SV%), but Osgood has time and time again proven strong stability when it matters most. Staying healthy will be crucial for the Red Wings to achieve any post-season success.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Adam
    Dan
    George
    PHX in 7

    PHX in 6
    DET in 6
    PHX in 7

    PHX in 6

    DET in 5

    DET in 7