1) Vancouver Canucks vs 8) Los Angeles Kings
The reigning Western Conference champs have an interesting draw in round one... Los Angeles made some interesting moves the last few months, acquiring Carter, Richards and losing Simmonds, Johnson and Schenn. I think the loss of Johnson will hurt most... he was arguably their best defenseman after Doughty and he was one of their toughest. Vancouver dealt Hodgson to Buffalo for Kassian, one of my favorite players and have added the toughness they lacked last year. if both Sedins are healthy and Kesler and Co. make the plays they did last season, there's no reason the Canucks should lose this series... even if Luongo plays badly.
Vancouver in 6
2) St. Louis Blues vs 7) San Jose Sharks
Honestly... who took St. Louis to finish first in their division and 2nd overall? I thought they were toast in November but, with a great coaching change, they turned everything around and now, they draw San Jose in round one. St. Louis' goaltending duo of Elliot and Halak should win this series for them... San Jose is notorious for choking in the playoffs and this year should be the same.
St. Louis in 6
3) Phoenix Coyotes vs 6) Chicago Blackhawks
Phoenix may not be in Phoenix next season but that didn't keep them from winning their division for the first time in history. With all the legal issues in Phoenix, the team played well ahead of Mike Smith (why did Tampa let him go????) and surprised a lot of people by finishing so high. Chicago, former champs, have built their system around Toews and Kane and with Emery possibly starting this season, they need Toews and Kane to play their hearts out. This may not be a great matchup but should still be a great series.
4) Nashville Predators vs 5) Detroit Red Wings
I love this matchup! I have followed Nashville over the course of this season and I have been more than impressed with Rinne... he's played lights out all season and with Suter and Weber ahead of him, it's no wonder. Detroit's getting older, with the same band of guys they won Cups with earlier this decade and with Howard being injured the last few weeks of the season, they may have a problem. As I said about the Pens-Flyers series, this is the best matchup in the Western Conference and I am looking forward to it!
Nashville in 7