After an exciting first round of the NHL playoffs, we here at Stick Skillz are pumped for the conference semi-finals. There are couple of intriguing match ups that we never would have expected, which always makes for great hockey! Let’s take a look at the NHL Western Conference Semi Final playoffs preview … Stick Skillz style.
Starting in the Western Conference, the semi-finals will consist of a Central division battle between the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators. On the other side, we have a pair of great Pacific division teams, as the Anaheim Ducks take on the Edmonton Oilers.
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Personally, I never would have expected either of these teams to advance to the conference semi-finals. The Preds just squeaked into the playoffs, securing the second wild-card spot but, then they went ahead and swept the powerful Chicago Blackhawks. If anything, this shows that there is something to be said for having to push hard to make the playoffs versus just coasting in. On the flip side, the Blues looked like they had abandoned their hopes of going on a Stanley Cup run but, under the leadership of new Head Coach, Mike Yeo, and incredible goaltending from Jake Allen, the Blues have found themselves as the potential favourites in this match up.
The Blues and the Preds met five times in the regular season this year, with the Predators winning the season series 3-2. The home team dominated during the regular season with both team claiming victories on home ice. The Preds were the only team to win in the other team’s barn.
On offence, the Blues appear to have more firepower with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko but, after him, it gets a little sparse. They are going to have to lean on Jaden Schwartz, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, and Alex Pieterangelo to help balance out the attack. Conversely, the Preds don’t have the firepower of a Tarasenko but, they do have a number of players who can hurt you. Look to Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban, and Roman Josi to carry the load. Edge: Nashville.
Both teams have solid defensive foundations with the Blues having a lower shots, goals, and scoring chances against. However, the most exciting defensive storyline is the outstanding play of both goaltenders, Jake Allen (Blues) and Pekka Rinne (Predators). Both goalies were game-changers in the first round and there is no doubt that their teams will look to them to continue this trend. Edge: St. Louis
Predictions: Preds in 6
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks
If the Oilers had just secured a wild card spot this year I think we all would have chalked that up to a successful regular season. Instead, they finished second in the division with 103 points and then dispatched a very tough San Jose team in the first round. The Ducks came out of the gate slow however, they quickly found their form enroute to a Pacific division win. They then cruised into the playoffs handily sweeping the Calgary Flames with a very convincing effort.
Head to head, the Oilers and Ducks played five times throughout the 2016-17 season. The Oilers won the season series 3-2 with three closely matched games, two of which went to overtime.
The Ducks’ offence is run by committee with Ryan Getzlaf leading the charge. After Getzlaf, the Ducks can still hurt you with the likes of Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell, and Cam Fowler (who is scheduled to be back from injury). The Oilers’ offence obviously runs through their Captain, Connor McDavid, but as the first round match up showed us, the Oilers can look to Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, and Milan Lucic, as well as offensive production from their defence. Edge: Edmonton.
Playing tough, in your face, playoff defence is something that the Ducks thrive at. Statistically, they fair better than the Oilers in shots and scoring chances allowed, as well as goals against. Of course, the last line of defence is your goaltending. Cam Talbot carried the load for the Oilers this year and proved that he can be a number one guy. Despite a one game blip against the Sharks he has played well in the playoffs. Gibson played a shortened season due to injury but looked solid in his return and started all four games against the Flames in the first round. Edge: Anaheim.
Prediction: Ducks in five