2015 NHL Playoffs Expert Picks & 1st Round Series Predictions: Western Conference 1st Rd Predictions

2015-NHL-Stanley-Cup-Playoffs-Odds-and-Predictions2015 NHL Playoffs Expert Picks & 1st Round Series Predictions: Western Conference 1st Rd Predictions: The 2014-15 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway, and the Western Conference has the potential to be filled with potential upsets. For whatever reason, the playoff teams in the West have been very streaky over the course of the year, and many of the higher seeds seem to be struggling while the underdogs appear to hitting their stride just in time for the postseason to begin. With that in mind, here is a closer look at all the first-round playoff series in the Western Conference.

2015 NHL Playoffs Free Picks & Expert Predictions: Western Conference Playoffs First-Round Series Predictions

Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames

In a battle of arguably the two weakest playoff teams, neither the Flames nor the Canucks are really at full strength in this one. Calgary is without stud defenseman Mike Giordano, and Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller is still trying to get back into game shape after missing the final two months of the season. Neither injury is ideal, but the Flames are slightly better equipped to handle the loss of Giordano thanks to the solid play of blueliner Kris Russell and the career year for Jiri Hudler. Calgary grabbed Game 1 of the series, besting Vancouver backup goalie Eddie Lack 2-1, and whether the Canucks stick with Lack or opt to gamble on the rusty Miller, the Flames have the advantage.

Prediction: Calgary Flames Win in 6 Games

Winnipeg Jets vs. Anaheim Ducks

Heading into the series, a strong argument could be made that the top-seeded Ducks were ripe for an upset. For one, they had an excellent record in one-goal games this year, which can often reflect luck more than anything. Meanwhile, Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec had posted three straight shutouts heading into the postseason. However, Anaheim looked the part of a top seed in the opener rallying from an early deficit to win 4-2 on the strength of two goals and two assists from Corey Perry. Perry’s performance is a microcosm of what separates these teams, and at the end of the day, the Ducks simply have more individual playmakers. Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are both MVP-caliber players, and Ryan Kesler provides a level of toughness that this group has lacked in recent years. Anaheim went 3-0-0 against Winnipeg in the regular season and should take care of business in this series.

Prediction: Ducks Win in 5 Games

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

After looking like the team to beat halfway through the regular season, the Predators suffered declined on both ends of the ice in the second half. Nashville’s offense in particular slowed considerably. On the flip side, Chicago improved on defense throughout the year, eventually finishing second in fewest goals allowed, and the offense is back at full strength with Patrick Kane healthy. Kane tallied a pair of assists in the Blackhawks 4-3 win in Game 1, and with these two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, Chicago is poised to comfortably handle the higher-seeded Predators.

Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks win in 6 Games

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. St. Louis Blues

You have to feel a little bad for the Blues. After all, they won the toughest division in the NHL, and despite a balanced roster that helped them finish fifth in goals per game and fourth in fewest goals allowed, they draw arguably the toughest first-round matchup of any team. The Wild have the best record of any team in the league since trading for goalie Devan Dubnyk, who posted a 1.78 goals against average for Minnesota. More importantly, he picked up where he left in the regular season, leading the Wild to a 4-2 win in Game 1. Expect the series to be a back-and-forth battle between two excellent defensive teams, but Dubnyk and company are playing their best at the perfect time and will spring the upset.

Prediction: Minnesota Wild Win in 7 Games

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