NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Preview
by Dave Schwab - 4/9/2012
The 2011-12 NHL regular season came to a close this past Saturday and later this week the real season gets underway as the top eight teams in each conference will begin their quest for a coveted Stanley Cup title.
No. 8 Los Angeles Kings vs. No. 1 Vancouver Canucks
Los Angeles was in prime position to win the Pacific Division title but dropped three of its four games to fall all the way to eighth in the West. It finished the season with 95 points and an overall record of 40-27-15. The Kings went 22-14-5 at home and 18-13-10 on the road. They were 37-45 against the puck line but had a respectable +839 return on the money line.
Vancouver had to fend off St. Louis for the top spot in the conference by posting a 7-1 record down the stretch to finish with a NHL-best 111 points. The Canucks were rock-solid no matter where they played with a 27-10-4 record at home and a 24-12-5 record on the road. They were +641 on the money line but a costly 36-46 against the puck line.
Each team won once at home and once on the road to split this season’s four-game series. Three of the games ended with a combined five goals to create three ‘pushes’ on the total line. Overall, the Kings are just 3-8 in their last 11 trips to Vancouver. The Canucks were tied with Chicago as the highest-scoring team in the West with a goals-per-game average of 2.94.
No. 7 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 2 St. Louis Blues
San Jose’s four-game winning streak to close out the regular season was not enough to win the Pacific Division, but it raised its overall record to 43-29-10 and gave the Sharks 93 points on the year. They were 26-13-3 at home but just 17-17-7 on the road. San Jose was a league-worst 28-54 against the puck line and -1532 on the money line.
St. Louis was one of the hottest teams in the league over the second half of the season, but four losses in its last five games took a bit of the luster off of this team. The Blues finished the year with 109 points and an overall record of 49-22-11. They played exceptionally well at home with a record of 30-6-5 but were a very pedestrian 19-16-6 on the road. St. Louis went 35-47 against the puck line and had a +17 return on the money line.
The Blues swept San Jose this season in four straight games by a combined score of 11-3. The favorite in this series is 19-7 in the last 26 meetings. The total has stayed ‘under’ in the last four meetings in St. Louis and in the last four games overall.
No .6 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes
Chicago was up and down all season long but could be peaking at just the right time with a 6-1-3 record in its last 10 games that raised its record on the year to 45-26-11. The Blackhawks are 26-8-6 at home but an even 18-18-5 on the road. They went 38-44 against the puck line and had a -236 return of the money line.
Phoenix went 7-1-2 over its last 10 games, including a five-game winning streak to close out the season. This was enough to secure the Pacific Division title and home-ice advantage for at least the first round. The Coyotes are 22-13-6 at home and 20-14-7 on the road. They were a profitable 50-32 against the puck line and +2171 on the money line.
After winning the first meeting this season, Chicago lost the next three, including two games as a home favorite. The favorite in this series is actually 5-2 in the last seven games and the total has stayed under in 24 of the last 35 meetings.
No. 5 Detroit Red Wings vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators
Detroit is another team that really struggled down the stretch with a 5-12 record in its last 17 games to fall from first to fifth in the conference. It has 102 total points and an overall record of 48-28-6. The Red Wings were the best home team in the NHL this season with a record of 31-7-3, but they were only 17-21-3 on the road. Detroit finished with a 39-43 record against the puck line but remained profitable on the money line at + 995.
Nashville won six of its last eight games, including a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings as a +134 road underdog on March 30. It ended-up with 104 points and an overall record of 48-26-8. The Predators were 26-10-5 at home and 22-16-3 on the road. They went 44-38 against the puck line and generated a +1401 return on the money line.
Each team won two of three meetings at home this season to tie the overall series at three games apiece. The total has now stayed under in seven of the last 10 games between the two. The Predators come into this matchup as the fourth-highest scoring team in the West with 2.83 goals per game.
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