|Posted on April 10, 2012 at 7:00 PM|
My Eastern Conference Predictions are done, now time to move on to the West. Here are my 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Western Conference Predictions.
 Vancouver Canucks vs.  Los Angeles Kings
Outlook: After capturing the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight year, the Vancouver Canucks are hungry for the Cup. They were only one game away from winning it last year but they were unable to finish off the Big Bad Bruins. The Kings meanwhile accumulated 95 points - just two points shy of the Pacific division champs (Phoenix Coyotes- 97 pts.) - in the regular season and landed the eighth seed. This will be the teams second playoff meeting in three years.
"Obviously, we have most of the same guys back and we fell one game short last year and that was hard, but we know what it takes, so we're amped up and ready to go." - Ryan Kesler.
Season Series: 2-2 Tie
Watch for... Mike Richards: With 50 points in 63 games, he's had great success in the playoffs. Don't sleep on him.
X-Factor... Quick vs. Luongo: I think the series will just come down to which goalie has more sucess. Head-to-head, in the season, Quick had a 1.73 GAA against the Canucks and Luongo had a 1.96 GAA against the Kings. Both goalies are very good and it should be a fairly low scoring series.
Prediction: Vancouver Canucks in seven
 St. Louis Blues vs.  San Jose Sharks
Outlook: During the season, the St. Louis Blues quietly sneaked their way to the top of the Western Conference while the San Jose Sharks just managed to squeeze into the playoffs in a fairly disappointing year. It's a number two seed versus a number seven seed but don't let the numbers fool you, this series could go either way.
Season Series: 4-0 Blues
Watch for... Joe Thornton: 109 playoff games but still no Stanley Cup ring to show for it for Jumbo Joe. At 33, he's not getting any younger either. I'm curious to see how he will do this series.
X-Factor... Can the Blues net-minders continue their success?: They had a total of 15 shutouts and were the best goalie duo in the National Hockey League during the season. If Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak can stop San Jose's dangerous offense, I think it will give them the edge in the series.
Prediction: St. Louis Blues in six
 Phoenix Coyotes vs.  Chicago Blackhawks
Outlook: After their first ever Pacific division crown, the Coyotes are looking to make even more history and reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, something they have never done before. The Blackhawks meanwhile, are hoping to get back into Cup contention after being eliminated in the first round last year.
Season Series: 3-1 Coyotes
Watch for... Dave Bolland: Bolland has had a habit of thriving in the playoffs. Over his career, with 154 points in 297 regular season games, he's had a PPG average of .52. In the playoffs, his 34 points in 43 games gives him a PPG average of .79. That's a fairly significant increase of .27.
X-Factor... Mike Smith: He led them into the playoffs with a 2.21 GAA and .930 SVP% and now Phoenix is counting on their goalie to bring them further. His play will be a big factor in deciding this series.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks in five
 Nashville Predators vs.  Detroit Red Wings
Outlook: In eight trips to the playoffs, Nashville has faced Detroit twice, and lost both of those series' in six games. But, "this is the first time Nashville has finished ahead of the Red Wings in the standings and will, as a result, hold home-ice advantage." - NHL.com. Could third time be charm?
Season Series: 3-3 Tie
Watch for... Alexander Radulov: After returning from the KHL, Radulov played 9 games with the Predators and recorded 7 points this season. In 10 NHL career playoff games he's had 8 points.
X-Factor... Red Wings offense vs. Pekka Rinne's goaltending: The Wings scored the seventh most goals in the NHL during the season. It not an easy job getting the puck past Pekka Rinne but if they will, we all know they can, they will win the series.
Prediction: Detroit Red Wings in six
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2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Eastern Conference Predictions