2012 NHL Western Conference Playoff Vegas Odds, Series Prices and Expert Picks: First-Round Series Predictions: With the 2012 NHL playoffs set to begin, the Western Conference appears to be the deeper of the two. The Vancouver Canucks won the President’s Cup by notching the league’s best record, and the last two teams in the playoffs both had better records than the last two teams to clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference. Of course, the Western Conference was the frontrunner last season, as well, but the Boston Bruins came away with the Stanley Cup. Whichever team advances to the finals this season is going to have to earn it.

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 1 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Kings

The Canucks powered their way to the President’s Cup using a strong offense and an above average defense. The balance on both ends of the ice is Vancouver’s biggest strength, especially in a matchup against the one-dimensional Kings. Aside from center Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles is an embarrassment on offense. In fact, the Kings are the only team in either conference to make the playoffs despite scoring less than 200 goals. On the flip side, Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick posted the second-best goals against average in the NHL this season and a league-high 10 shutouts, and the Kings allowed the second-fewest goals in either conference. Of course, Roberto Luongo is no slouch in net for Vancouver, and with Daniel and Henrik Sedin leading a far-superior offense, the Kings just don’t have the firepower to compete in a seven-game series.

Prediction: Ottawa Senators Win in 6 Games

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 2 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 San Jose Sharks

This matchup is a nightmare for San Jose. Despite having three 30-goal scorers and center Joe Thornton, the Sharks’ lack of depth makes them mediocre at best on offense. Meanwhile, the Blues allowed the fewest goals of any team in the NHL this season, thanks to a dynamic duo in net. Brian Elliott led the NHL with 1.56 goals against average and a .940 save percentage, and Jaroslav Halak ranked fourth with a 1.97 GAA. The suffocating St. Louis defense was firing on all cylinders in four meetings with San Jose during the regular season. The Blues won all four games, giving up just three total goals and shutting out the Sharks twice. It’s hard to imagine San Jose somehow coming up with enough offense to upset St. Louis.

Prediction: St. Louis Blues Win in 5 Games

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 6 Chicago Blackhawks

Phoenix enters the playoffs on a high on the heels of its first-ever Pacific Division title. However, the Blackhawks actually finished the year with a better record, even though they finished fourth in the Central Division. Chicago has the edge on offense, especially if Jonathan Toews is healthy as expected, while Phoenix has a huge edge in net with Mike Smith enjoying the best season of his career. If Smith plays well, the Coyotes should advance. If he struggles under the pressure of the postseason, the Blackhawks have the firepower and the playoff experience to overcome their suspect goaltending.

Prediction: Phoenix Coyotes Win in 7 Games

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 4 Nashville Predators vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings

Nashville finished two points ahead of Detroit during the regular season, but the Red Wings actually scored more goals and allowed fewer goals than the Predators. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne should have a nice battle between the pipes, while both sides have plenty of balance on offense. The teams split six games during the regular season, and as similar as they are on paper, the Red Wings and Predators should have one of the more evenly-matched series in either conference. In the end, Detroit’s veteran experience could pay dividends on the pressure-packed stage that is the playoffs.

Prediction: Detroit Red Wings Win in 7 Games

Get expert NHL handicapping picks, tips and predictions daily from World Champion Handicapper Sonny LaFouchi(aka The LEGEND) only on NSAwins.com! Plus check out daily updated odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup!

2012 Vegas Odds to Win NHL Western Conference
Vancouver Canucks +190
St Louis Blues +340
Detroit Red Wings +600
Nashville Predators +700
Chicago Blackhawks +700
San Jose Sharks +1100
Los Angeles Kings +1200
Phoenix Coyotes +1850

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