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Here are my Western Conference playoff predictions for the opening round of the 2018 playoffs:
(1) Nashville Predators vs (WC2) Colorado Avalanche
Prediction: Predators in five.
The Predators are much deeper up front, they have the best defense core in the league, and a Vezina candidate between the pipes to clean up any mess the team makes in front of him.
Nashville's lack of discipline is a real weakness – they led the league in penalties – and that's the main reason I could see the Avalanche winning a game or two. The latter scored more power play goals than all but Pittsburgh in the regular season. They certainly have the high-end firepower to make undisciplined teams pay.
(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs (WC1) Los Angeles Kings
Prediction: Golden Knights in seven.
The two sides have been identically mediocre at 5v5 over the last couple months and there really isn't much separating them.
The Kings have more true star power but I think the Golden Knights' team speed will cause the Kings problems. Having home ice advantage should give them a boost as well.
I give the slight edge to Vegas, although I expect this series to go the distance either way.
(2) Winnipeg Jets vs (3) Minnesota Wild
Prediction: Jets in six.
I really liked the Jets to begin with and Ryan Suter's injury only makes matters worse for the Wild. They just don't have strong enough defensive personnel to hold up against all the speed and skill the Jets have spread throughout their lineup.
The Jets enter this series playing some of their best hockey – they went 19-5-1 over their last 25 and controlled 53.2% of the 5v5 chances during that stretch – and I expect that to continue.
Devan Dubnyk could steal a couple games but I think the Jets will take care of business without going the distance.
(2) Anaheim Ducks vs (3) San Jose Sharks
Prediction: Sharks in seven.
The Sharks are one of my favorite sleeper teams in this year's playoffs. Over the last 25 games, no Western Conference playoff team generated more scoring chances/60 at 5v5 than the Sharks. They have really taken off since acquiring Evander Kane and I think they could cause problems for a Ducks defense that is a little vulnerable without Cam Fowler. With John Gibson's injury status up in the air, that worries me.
Anaheim has the firepower to make things interesting, and a healthy Gibson is capable of stealing a series, but there is a little too much uncertainty with the Ducks right now for me to pick them. I like the Sharks in what should be a lengthy, and entertaining, series.
Calgary Flames 2017-18 season awards
Setting the table for the 2018 off-season
On the possibility of trading into the 1st round