NHL Western Conference Playoff Predictions and Series Odds
The NHL Playoffs are about to get rolling, and in the Western Conference things look a little different than we are used to. No Chicago. Or L.A. or Anaheim. Those three teams have won the last six Stanley Cups among current Western Conference teams, and all have been perennial playoff teams. But last year's Western Conference champs, Vegas, are back and have shown that their first season was no fluke. And a solid group of challengers, led by conference-topping Calgary, are out to make sure Vegas doesn't repeat as conference champs. Here's a look at how the conference sets up in the first round and beyond. (Odds are from BetOnline)
Calgary (-183) vs. Colorado (+163): The Flames have become the first team in NHL history to win a conference the year after missing the playoffs. They achieved at the top of their potential for sure, but it was a very aggressive offseason, so it wasn't the surprise it might seem to be - this was a playoff team in all likelihood as the season started.
Colorado is playing well down the stretch, and their top line is as good as any in the league when healthy. But it hasn't been healthy of late. The teams have played some crazy games this season, and offense should not be in short supply. Calgary has questions in net, though those have eased as both Mike Smith and David Rittich have settled down as the season progressed. If Calgary does get the goalkeeping, they are in good shape here. They run deeper up front and on the back end and have shown a whole lot to get to where they are. Calgary had 17 points more than Colorado, and it was no fluke (crazy fact: Calgary finished second in the NHL, but the 21 points they trailed top team Tampa Bay is more than the 17 between them and the Avs, the playoff team with the fewest points). Calgary is the second choice to win the Cup at +800 (well behind favored Tampa at +200) and the top choice to win the West at +350.
I have watched this team much more than any other, and while their inexperience is a concern - only two guys have significant playoff experience aside from a short appearance by Calgary a couple of years ago - they are dangerous. They will win this series, and I expect them to win the West as well - and then get rolled over by Tampa.
Nashville (-175) vs. Dallas (+155): Nashville came out on top in a race for the Central that none of the three contenders seemed to want to win. Nashville has experience and talent, but something hasn't felt quite right with them all year. Good, but not quite as good as they could be, and they have been struggling to stay healthy, too. Dallas struggles to score, but they are really good defensively and in net. There is the potential for an upset here, and the value lies with the Stars. Either way, I don't expect the winner of this series to make it out of the second round.
San Jose (-112) vs. Las Vegas (-108): Vegas made the best move of the trade deadline when they added Mark Stone. He has fit in very well and headlines a deep forward group. And Marc-Andre Fleury is brilliant in net - especially in the playoffs. A couple of weeks ago, the Golden Knights would have been a very easy pick over San Jose. The Sharks are floundering, have serious questions in net, and haven't been able to get the best out of their stacked defensive corps. But the Knights stumbled down the stretch as well, losing seven of their final 10 - two in overtime.
I still lean towards Vegas, but it will depend on which team can wake up sooner. And while I still respect both teams, the way Calgary handled the stretch drive compared to these two makes it feel much more likely that the Flames will win the Pacific. This series feels like a coin flip, so there is no real value here.
Winnipeg (-102) vs. St. Louis (-118): Winnipeg is one of the bigger disappointments in the league this year in my eyes. Sure, 99 points is far from a disaster, and they missed winning their division by only a single point. But after so much positive last year, they had the pieces in place to really be impressive, and they just haven't quite fired.
St. Louis, meanwhile, is a crazy story. In early January they were at the bottom of the league. Now they finished a single point behind Nashville and tied with Winnipeg. The last three months have been very impressive, and they had eight wins in their last 10 games. They have red-hot goaltending, and a nicely constructed roster, and they are tremendously more confident. The Blues are the clear pick to win not just this series but the division.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
Get all of Tonight's NHL Picks.
Get all of Tonight's guaranteed Expert NHL Picks.