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2012 The Quest For The Cup-Western Conference
Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff ReporterOAKLAND, CA. (BASN)—The upstart Saint Louis Blues defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 gaining the 2nd position in the Western Conference. The team that played in the old Checker Dome(are you old enough to remember?) had come of age. Where is KMOX radio when you need them? With the Blues young scoring power this is going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
Let the Wild, Wild, West begin. The Los Angeles Kings had to wait until the last days of the 2012 season to know they were in the playoffs, playing home and home series against the San Jose Sharks. The Kings have one of the best goalies in the Western Conference in Jonathan Quick whose 14 shutouts led the league. Quick is a leading candidate for this year’s Vezina Trophy. The Kings have the best corps of center men in the league with Kopitar, Richards, Lewis, and Stoll and they have great scoring skills.
The Wayne Simmonds trade has helped both teams. The Kings defense could be in question at times giving breakaway goals. The Kings have to score to move on. The Los Angeles Kings have been shutout in eight games coming down the stretch so they have to help Quick.
The Vancouver Canucks have righted the ship just in time, before the end of the season. The Canucks went into a long scoring slump mid-season. The Sedin Brothers also went through a drought which almost cost them the President’s Cup. Daniel Sedin has an injury with a mild concussion on March 22 but should return for the playoffs.
The big question is which Roberto Luongo will show up between the pipes? He ended the season 8-1-1. Luongo has been hot then very cold and in the Stanley Cup this will not work. Loungo has to match Quick if the Canucks are to move on to second round.
Los Angeles Kings in seven.
#2 Saint Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks It is really nice to see a new team in the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues have impressed many this year with their 24 point improvement from last year. The Two Headed Monster, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in net won the William Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed in a season. It will be the biggest problem for the San Jose Sharks. Captain Dave Becks and big Andy McDonald will lead the men of Blue and Gold. St. Louis will be leaning on Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott for playoff experience. The Blues have beaten the Sharks all four times this season outscoring them 11-4.
The Blues also have the advantage with coach Ken Hitchcock and his staff behind the bench. This could be it for the San Jose Sharks if they do not play well in the playoffs. This is one of the most underachieving teams in the league. They still miss Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley with their 104 points.
They were traded for muscle in Martin Havlat. It has not worked out for the Sharks. The Joe’s have to score, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski and all for lines have to produce if San Jose will move on to second round.
The Sharks have a bigger problem in net and that’s Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss neither one had a great year. At times Niemi has let in very soft goals. San Jose are great muckers and grinders in the corners and should make the Blues life miserable around the net. This could be the end of the line for The Men of Teal if they don’t reach the Western Conference Finals or the Stanley Cup Finals.
St. Louis in seven.
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks This is another interesting matchup in the West. The no-name Coyotes vs. the star studded Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are another disappointing team with their outstanding players. In net they have to decide who will man the pipes – Corey Crawford or Goal Brother Ray Emery.
Here’s an idea Chicago why don’t you start both of them in this series. Best man wins. The Hawks right side is awesome with Goal Brother Jamal Mayers, the Patrick’s, Kane and Sharp, the big guy Marian Hossa, and four solid lines at the United Center should make Hawks fans happy.
The Hawks defense has improved at the end of the year with Goal Brother Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets. The Hawks will also improve when Jonathan Toews hits the ice, coming back from a concussion injury.
The Phoenix Coyotes hang their hopes on new star goalie Mike Smith who carried this team the last three weeks with his outstanding play in net.
Left Winger Raffi Torres and Ray Whitney will have to storm the net with Radim Vrbata and Shane Done on the right side. The question for the Coyotes can they outscore the Hawks?
Chicago in Seven.
#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings This will be the third time these two have met in the playoffs. They met in 2004, 2008, and now 2012. So if this logic continues they won’t meet again until 2016. The Wings have won the last two so maybe this time the Nashville Predators will get a chance to play another round. The Preds could also blind the Red Wings with their new gold uniforms.
The Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs for the 21st straight year, the veterans keeping this team on an even keel. Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was on pace to catch Martin Broduer single season victory record before injuries sidelined him. Howard gets it done in net for the Wings. Johan Franzen and the rookies will be the key to Detroit victory over the Preds.
The Nashville Predators put everything on the board to get into the playoffs with multiple mid-season trades. The Nashville power play could change the ending of this series, only one thing, the Wings do not commit dumb penalties. Pekka Rinne has been a surprise in net and Martin Erat is on fire scoring goals. The Pred Defense Ryan Suter and Francis Boullion are going to have to stop Detroit in order to move on. Jordan Tootoo Mr. Predator could be the key for the gold and black.
Red Wings in Seven.
In two weeks we will return with round two
Â©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod