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NHL Western Conference Semifinal Preview

The second round of the 2017 NHL Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday with both Western Conference matchups kicking things off. I thought I would take a minute to review my first round selections before moving on to what we should expect to see in round 2.

For the first round, I had picked:

  • Chicago in 7
  • Anaheim in 6
  • Edmonton in 6
  • St. Louis in 5

In terms of predicting winners, I was 3/4 (although I did pick Nashville in my bracket) and was able to correctly predict the number of games in 2/4 series. Not bad for someone who doesn’t get to watch much Western Conference action.

St. Louis Blues (3rd Central) vs. Nashville Predators (WC2)

Season series: 3-2 St. Louis

There were many folks who were picking these two teams to be easily eliminated in the first round but, to the surprise of many, both were able to knock their opponents out by a combined 8-1. The St. Louis Blues were responsible for ending the season of the Minnesota Wild in 5 games, but that is not necessarily indicative of their play in the first round. St. Louis rode the hot goaltending of Jake Allen to make it to the conference semifinals and will need him to be at his absolute best if they intend to move past the high-scoring Nashville Predators. St. Louis scored the fewest number of goals out of all teams that advanced to the second round with 11, and only 3 total playoff teams scored less than the Blues in the first round (Calgary scored 9, Minnesota scored 8 and Chicago scored 3, while Montreal tied with 11). That means that the Bluenotes advanced to the second round while scoring an average of just over 2 goals per game. Nashville, on the other hand, scored 3 more goals while playing one less game, giving them a goals-per-game average of 3.25. The Blues will need to find the back of the net more in this series, but may be in tough against a rested Predators and Pekka Rinne, who seems to be completely in the zone.

Storyline to watch: Allen vs. Rinne. Both of these men almost single-handedly brought their respective teams to the second round, but Rinne seemed to be just that little bit better.

Nashville wins 4-2

Anaheim Ducks (1st Pacific) vs. Edmonton Oilers (2nd Pacific)

Season series: 3-2 Edmonton

[the_ad id=”693″]This series should be a good one. The outlying numbers here won’t paint a very good picture of what to expect in this series since, at first glance, it would seem that Anaheim has a serious edge in the scoring department. Although the Ducks did, in fact, score more goals in fewer games than the Oilers did in the first round, Edmonton was up against Martin Jones who, despite losing the series still posted a .935 SV% and 1.75 GAA. On the flip side, Anaheim was up against Brian Elliott who seemingly reverted to his early season form, allowing 12 goals on 100 shots in 4 games, for a dismal .880 SV% and 3.89 GAA. This series, Anaheim will need to try to crack Cam Talbot, all while keeping Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at arm’s length. Talbot, meanwhile, allowed only 12 goals on 165 shots, good for a stat line of .927 SV%, 2.03 GAA and 2 shutouts.

Storyline to watch: Kesler vs. McDavid. Ryan Kesler is arguably the best shutdown centerman in the entire NHL and will be tasked with getting under the skin of Art Ross winner Connor McDavid. McDavid should expect to be assaulted every time his skate blades touch the ice and although the Oilers surprisingly didn’t need to rely entirely on him against the Sharks, it is expected that he will need to bring his game to the next level against the mean Anaheim Ducks.

Edmonton wins 4-3

The playoffs are progressing very nicely and these two series should continue to entertain. I’d love to hear what your selections are for the second round and how you did on your first round predictions. Let me know in the comment section and, as always, thanks for reading and sharing!

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