NHL Playoffs Western Conference Preview

Adam Boothe

Thursday, April 4, 2019 8:08 AM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 4, 2019 8:08 AM UTC

All the key pieces in the West are set, now it is time for the real game to begin!

<p>In contrast to the East, the Western Conference does not hold a clear favourite. Every team has been much more streaky than usual it seems with stretches of utter dominance, while disappearing entirely for others. There is still some potential shuffling in the Central Division, but for the most part the series are known already!<b> </b></p><h2>Flames v Avalanche</h2><p>What a season Calgary has had. Not only did they top the Pacific Divison (not all that difficult considering its current state) but also clinched home ice advantage throughout the Western bracket with a hot run through the final 8 games. There were two incredible stats to be aware of regarding the Flames season. When scoring first Calgary held an incredible 36-4-1 record. Additionally, if they lead after the first period, they were 21-3 and after two periods 31-1. Put that in perspective of an NHL philosophy that holds any team can win any night. The Avalanche on the other hand squeaked into the playoffs in a similar fashion to last season, however due to far different contributions [full disclosure the Coyotes still hold a 2% chance to steal the final spot]. Down the stretch their goaltending has been shotty most nights and their top line has missed key pieces of both Rantanen and Landeskog, however the rest of the roster has stepped up; a mark of a team that deserves a shot in the playoffs. While veteran teams like Minnesota and Chicago fell by the wayside, the Av's took advantage.</p><p>It should be noted that the Flames swept the season series against Colorado, however two were one goal games and two were also very high scoring. Calgary's biggest weakness by far is it's goaltending and has been throughout the season. While its nice to have a strong solid backup to rely on if needed, it really is a nightmare to alternate goalies in the playoffs. With Arizona, Mike Smith was the reason they were in the post-season most years. However, this is not the same backstop, he simply can't be peppered for 40 shots a night anymore. As both Colorado and Calgary have employed a tandem goaltending duo this season, I really believe the team to find the right hot goalie first, will win. That is how important this position is in hockey, and most critically in the playoffs.<b> </b></p><p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;blockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" data-lang=\"en\"&gt;&lt;p lang=\"en\" dir=\"ltr\"&gt;FIRST IN THE WEST, CLINCHED! &lt;a href=\"https://t.co/4rRublOD7j\"&gt;pic.twitter.com/4rRublOD7j&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;— z - Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) &lt;a href=\"https://twitter.com/NHLFlames/status/1112543922583035907?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;April 1, 2019&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;\n&lt;script async src=\"https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js\" charset=\"utf-8\"&gt;&lt;/script&gt;\n"}[/]</p><p><em><strong>I expect the Flames to open about as heavy as the Predators did last year against the Avalanche, 1.4 – 1.45 in Game 1! </strong></em></p><h2>Golden Knights v Sharks</h2><p>What a match-up this is going to be! Last year saw Vegas upstage the Sharks in a six-game contest through the second round. The funny thing is, if the Golden Knights had not had such a miraculous inaugural season, we would all be talking about how impressive 18/19 was! What a difference a year can make. Two things to keep in mind; the Golden Knights are not 'worse' than last year's squad, but the Sharks are better...in most aspects. The one critical advantage Vegas brings with them to this match-up is they have the 'Flower'. Marc-Andre Fleury has, excuse the pun, flourished in his new home. He looks like a goalie capable of carrying them on his back once more. That said he has once more struggled with injuries again this season. Any hopes Vegas has for another run will depend on him; Malcolm Subban simply is not ready. Martin Jones is a playoff veteran of three years with one deep run in 2016 to the Cup finals. This season he has had a career worst at the back-end, perhaps due to roster transitions, in GA, GAA and Sv%. Some of this went unnoticed due to the Sharks being an offensive juggernaut, but rarely due we see the same goal numbers in playoffs. So, if push comes to shove, can Jones be better than Fleury!<b> </b></p><p>I do love the composition of the Sharks roster, though Pavelski is instrumental in so many areas of the ice and needs to be healthy. His absence the past few weeks has correlated with their worst stretch of the season. The Sharks defence core is one of the strongest in the league in terms of talent and experience. The question is, can the D contain the high-tempo offence of the Knights. The season series went 2-2 with the Sharks winning both one-goal games and getting blown out by a combined score of 13-3 in the other two. I give the edge to the Knights here, and if they open as a slight dog will have no choice but to take them despite the excellent pieces and veteran leadership of San Jose.<b> </b></p><p>The Knights were underdogs against just about everyone except the Jets last post-season, I think it would be a mistake to underestimate them again this year. In my opinion the Golden Knights should open as slight favorites between 1.8 – 1.85 but it would not surprise me to see a Karlsson/Burns led roster give us the house line on the Golden Knights [nothing would make me happier than taking the 'Vegas side']!</p><p><em><strong>Will start moving on playoff series and the opening markets this weekend. Keep an ear to the Oddsmarket hockey page to get in at the best prices!</strong></em></p>
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