a blog by Iron Horse
Predators and Sharks? What an unthinkable second round, even weirder to think one of these teams could represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup. Here is who I think is more likely to represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals, but as the past as shown us none of these teams have strong second round presence in their recent history.
For the first time since 2008 the Western Conference Finals will not host the Blackhawks or the Kings. After both teams were eliminated in the first round. Chicago was bounced by the Blues in 7 games, and LA was trounced surprisingly by their rival San Jose Sharks.
Surprisingly I say because up until this point the Sharks had seemed to be Superman in the regular season, only to meet their kryptonite (The Los Angeles Kings) in the first 2 rounds almost every year. In 2013 & 2014 the Sharks were bounced out of the playoffs by their counterpart the Kings in 7 games. The Kings in 2014 would go on to win the cup, after being down 3-0 to San Jose in the 1st round, to make matters even worse for the Sharks. I look forward to this Sharks Preds matchup in the next round because they both have a lot to prove. I'm excited knowing that this matchup will feature the 2 most unexpected teams on this side of the conference in my opinion (other than the Wild), simply due to how their teams have performed in playoff years past. Not too mention the Western Conference has been far superior for a number of years now in terms of competition, and overall team strength. The strong play from Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, backed up by strong offseason acquisitions such as Joel Ward, and net minder Martin Jones, have paved the way to this second round matchup for the San Jose Sharks.
The Predators impressed me almost as much as the Sharks did, knocking off the hottest team in the NHL since the All Star break, and quite frankly shocking the NHL community. The Anaheim Ducks on a ton of peoples brackets were going to the Western Conference, if not the cup final this postseason but it was not to be. 3 of the 4 wins in this series for Nashville came in 1 goal affairs which to me says they know how to win close games, including their 4th and final win over the Ducks in Anaheim in Game 7. The pressure atmosphere has been there and they have passed the test. With everyone getting in on the act and finding a way to push themselves into the second round averaging just 2 goals a game. Pekka Rinne has always been a strong goaltender and a pretty underrated one in my mind, his size and flexibility will look to lead the Predators in this marquis matchup against the Sharks. starting on
In that case I'm going to go for an upset here and say that Nashville is ready to go to the Western Conference Finals, but I'm going to say this one happens once again in 7 games for them. If they're going to the Cup Final, it's going to be a very Boston Bruins 2011 type of road. (3 7 game series 25 games out of a potential 28 played).
Nashville in 7.
Next up in this conference we have the Stars and the Blues. I expected the Wild honestly to give the Stars a better run in the 1st round than they did, and the Blues surprisingly got over their trouble against the Blackhawks of late and bested them in 7.
For me the two big surprises out of this series, and I don't even know if I "surprises" is the right word. More like just "holy shit I can't believes". But holy shit I can't believe the Stars made it through a round without Seguin or any goaltending whatsoever. In the first two games, the goaltending along with the defense from the Stars was surprisingly good from the offensive powerhouse. Allowing just a goal in their first 2 games of the series combined with strong goal-tending from Kari Lehtonen. This goalie trouble eventually showed up though as the Stars allowed 16 goals in the final 4 games, luckily their offense was their to pick them up. Scoring 15 goals in those same 4 games, spreading them out just enough to win another 2 and take the series in 6.
Although the Blues did just come off a long and arduous series, going 7 games with arguably the NHL's best playoff team. They came out on top, winning in a clutch game, and having their key contributors step up when they needed it most. It is yet to be seen if Tyler Seguin will be back in full form for this Western Conference Semifinal matchup in it's entirety. But if he is Seguin will be my X factor in this series as it has been a true struggle to get anything past Brian Elliot, regular or post season.
I have Blues in 6 games here.
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