The 2014 NHL playoffs are upon us. As part of our continuing coverage, the staff of Defending Big D has their predictions ready. We'll look at the western conference. The west features some familiar matchups, especially in the old pacific division bracket. We'll look at all of the matchups outside of the Stars series, as we'll devote more attention to that one separately.
(2) San Jose Sharks vs (3) Los Angeles Kings
Brad Gardner: Yuck. Repulsive series. Repulsive. I don't know, Kings in 7 because I don't like Thornton's big dumb playoff beard. #analysis
Brandon Worley: This is going to be a fun series to watch, if I get the chance outside of the Stars and Ducks. The Sharks, in my humble opinion, are the best team in the West. Sharks in 6.
Erin Bolen: The best series of the first round by far, the Sharks and Kings are an interesting study in how much goaltending will play a factor against the better offense. I think home ice matters here. Sharks in 7.
Taylor Baird: Knock-down, drag-out of the first round. Hard to decide, and either could come out ahead. I'm hoping for a long round and expecting the Sharks to barely outlast the Kings in 7.
Josh Lile: San Jose knocks out the Kings in 7.
Brandon Bibb: Flip a coin. No really. The teams are as close as they were last spring. And just like last spring, I think it'll be Kings in 7.
David Wilson: Last year these two teams went the distance, with the home team winning each of the seven games. Sharks have that advantage this time around though, and if they can play a more physical brand of hockey than past editions of the Sharks, they can take it. Sharks in 6.
Huw Wales: The Sharks feel like a different team than they have been in the past few years. Maybe they can finally go somewhere in the playoffs. I don't want to see the Kings get another Stanley Cup this soon. It will be hard fought out but I'll say Sharks in 7.
Ismael Hammoudi: This is finally the Sharks' year to go pretty deep. LA has a great team, but they can't match the firepower of the guppies and Niemi will come up big. The difference between this Sharks team and ones of years past is depth. While they have the same awesome top-six, they've been playing guys like Pavelski and Couture in 3rd line roles at different points and that has spread their scoring out. Add the depth from their young guns and they're top to bottom more dangerous than the Kings. Sharks in 6.
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs (4) Minnesota Wild
Brad Gardner: Second guessing the Avs for 82 games didn't get anyone anything. Avs in 6.
Brandon Worley: The big question here is whether the PDO bubble will finally burst in the postseason and whether the Avs can survive without Matt Duchene. Give me the Avalanche in 6.
Erin Bolen: Of the two "paper tigers" in the West, I think the Avs are far more frightening because of their unsustainably good goaltending that has been sustained the whole season. I'm not sure they get by the second round, but the Wild don't have the weapons for the first round. Avs in 6.
Taylor Baird: I don't think that Minnesota has enough firepower to outscore Colorado, even if they do regress (like we've been waiting for all season.) Avalanche in 6.
Josh Lile: Who cares.
Brandon Bibb: OK, Colorado. You outperformed your Corsi and Fenwick numbers through 82 games en route to the 2nd overall seed in the West. Your bubble will burst, but not quite yet. Avs in 6.
David Wilson: The bubble has to burst for the Avas at some point. And yes, I do still believe that. But it won't happen against the Wild, who might well turn into the Maple Leafs next season. Avs in 4.
Huw Wales: The Wild have been good this year but there are too many questions marks around them. While the Avs aren't perfect they have the fear of Roy to push them through this first round matchup. Avalanche in 6.
Ismael Hammoudi: The Avalanche have been a great story with Patrick Roy leading this team. They have tons of firepower, but it's unsustainable and I think it all comes crashing down now. Varly is good, but not as good as he's been playing, and the Wild have added a lot of great offense throughout their lineup while their overall defensive system is more equipped for playoff success + Duchene is out. Wild in 6.
(2) St Louis Blues vs (3) Chicago Blackhawks
Brad Gardner: Ken HItchcock gets injured during the first National Anthem, for solidarity with his injured team. Hawks take it in 5.
Brandon Worley: The Blues are beat and are riding a horrendous losing streak into the postseason. The pressure is high for this team, while the Blackhawks have been there and done that. Chicago in 6.
Erin Bolen: The Hawks have been coasting for a bit now, but the Blues are in an injury-induced tailspin. I love Hitchcock and many of the Blues players, but they're in deep trouble. Hawks in 5.
Taylor Baird: St Louis is spiraling, and I don't think that Ryan Miller is in the right head space to backstop this injured team past the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane when healthy. Hawks in 5.
Josh Lile: Chicago walks through the zombie Blues in four games.
Brandon Bibb: I'll get labeled a homer (lifelong Hawks fan in case you weren't aware). But as the Olympics showed, you can't completely grind your way to success this time of year. Hawks in 6.
David Wilson: St Louis contrived to lose the top spot in the West to the Ducks, and not only that, but they were caught by the Avalanche for top seed in the Central. While Ryan Miller might have been the key the Blues needed, with all their injuries and under-performance at the end of the season, I can't see them topping the Hawks. Chicago in 5.
Huw Wales: The Blackhawks are going to be getting reinforcements soon and the Blues finished the season with a whimper. The Blues need to get it together but I feel like they are a team in the decline. Blackhawks in 5.
Ismael Hammoudi: The Blues have faltered down the stretch, but are still my favorite to win the cup. They play a great team game and Ryan Miller is a stud. They'll be getting bodies back while Kane and Toews are still injured. Better depth + amazing goaltender wins this one. Blues in 7.