It's the opening day of the most exciting time of the year - Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yesterday we presented our predictions of the Eastern Conference matchups. Today, we take on the more immediate matchups that concern Dallas Stars fans, and that's the Western Conference. We even put our names next to who we think will win the Stars vs Wild matchup, and how many games it will take.
The Pacific Division
The Stars played chicken with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in who would top the Western Conference the last month of the regular season. The Kings then faltered and allowed the Ducks to walk through the door to win the Pacific, even if they couldn't ultimately take the crown of the West. How will they fare in their first round matchups?
Anaheim Ducks (1) vs Nashville Predators (WC1)
Taylor: I think the Ducks continue their rags to riches storyline and come out ahead in this one. Ducks in 6.
Erin: The late-starting series always seems to go long, at least in my flawed memory, and the Predators can match the Ducks preferred grinding style. Goals will be at a premium. Ducks in 7.
Robert: Maybe that's a brave perdiction, but I'm a brave guy. Call it a gut feeling. As in Boudreau's gut. Preds in 3.
Marcus: Nashville has officially cooled off, and Anaheim is really good. Ducks in 5.
Wes: This one will be closer than a lot of people expect. Nashville still has a stout D, but with Forsberg, Johansen and Neal they can finally score a little bit. It's too bad they waited until the clock ran out on Pekka Rinne to bolster the offense. Ducks in 6.
David: Ducks are legit. This series will be a barn burner, but don't expect Nashville's shooting percentage to increase when it matters most. They're about to find out how much they miss Seth Jones upon becoming a team that could take a Chicago cup team to the limit without Weber, but not Anaheim. Ducks in 6.
Ann: AS MUCH AS THIS PAINS ME, the Ducks have gone from kissing the bottom rung of the entire NHL to leading the Pacific Division. Can't see the Predators and their sometimes iffy offense really getting in the way of that. Ducks in 5.
Derek: The two teams play a tight series where their star players go tit-for-tat, but Anaheim's superior depth guys prove to be the difference-makers. Ducks in 6.
Huw: Despite Nashville's good blueline I think the Ducks have the offensive firepower to win this series. Ducks in 6.
Melissa: Because there's got to be one sweep, and I just really hate the Ducks. Predators in 4.
Kathleen: This could be the most brutal prison-rules series of the first round. All those #MurderDeathKill Division games should be good preparation. Predators in 7.
Los Angeles Kings (2) vs San Jose Sharks (3)
Taylor: The Kings won't need an epic collapse to squeak by this year. Kings in 5.
Erin: The Sharks might be hiding small children or reserve players in their beards, but the Kings are the better team. Kings in 6.
Robert: Call me crazy, but I'll take Quick over his former backup or the guy who occasionally backed up his other former backup (Bernier) in Toronto. Toronto stank don't wash off. Kings in 4.
Marcus: Big and scary Los Angeles nearly went out to the Sharks two years ago, I say San Jose closes the deal this time. Sharks in 6.
Wes: Remember when Philly came back and embarrassed Boston? How did their next post-season meeting go? This one will get nasty, but I think the Sharks find a way to win. Sharks in 6.
David: San Jose didn't have Vlasic for the full 7 last time, and he's a legit difference maker. LA hits those offensive dry spells, and San Jose is a bit like Dallas in their ability crack through Sutter's system with speed and sheerplaymaking. They've also got goaltending right now. Sharks in 7.
Ann: I can't tell if I truly believe this will happen or if I just really want it to happen, but I think this is the year that the Sharks slay the dragon. Sharks in 7.
Derek: Big hits, crazy goals, multiple overtimes...this series will have it all, but in the end, the Sharks will find revenge over their division rivals. Sharks in 7.
Huw: I think the Kings are too good to be held back for long by the Sharks. This isn't the year the Sharks get over their demons. Kings in 5.
Melissa: The Sharks scored five goals against the Kings three times during the regular season, and they continue to find a way to light the lamp this series. Sharks in 6.
Kathleen: My visceral choice for the Western Conference series in which a perpetual playoffs underachiever finally shakes off its early-exit problem. Sharks in 7.
The Central Division
Also known as #MDK, this was the toughest division in the NHL this season. Who survives the first round?
Dallas Stars (1) vs Minnesota Wild (WC2)
Taylor: I'm going all-in on optimism today. Stars in 5.
Erin: The Wild are that sort of wounded animal who is more dangerous than you expect when backed into a corner. That said, the Stars job is to really stay out of their own way. Stars in 6.
Robert: If anyone else predicts otherwise, they are not a True Fan and you should Tweet angrily at them. Stars in 4.
Marcus: Bob Sturm once picked the Trail Blazers to beat the Mavericks in 6 games in the first round. The Mavs won the title that year. I am calling on all of the voodoos. Wild in 6.
Wes: I'm brash, I'm confident, who cares? I'm not saying this team is destined for greatness yet, but there's just too much here for Minnesota to handle. Suter isn't going to be able to handle 30+ minutes a night for seven full games, and the Stars haven't exactly struggled getting to Dubnyk this season. The biggest factor, though, will be the Power Play. Minny is sub 80% on the kill. Stars in 5.
David: I was leaning towards Stars in 6, but Parise's health is a real concern for the Wild. Dubnyk and Wild's blueline will make this series more competitive than it looks but they won't stop Benn in Beastmode. Or Klingberg and Faksa who I have faith in predicting to play like veterans. Stars in 5.
Ann: Can I officially abstain from jinxing my team? Is that an option?
Derek: The Wild have struggled lately and backed into the playoffs, but they'll prove their worth with a couple strong games. However, they won't be able to contain the Stars. Stars in 6.
Huw: The Stars have the firepower and the Wild finished the season struggling. I still think the Wild can win a pair of games. Stars in 6.
Melissa: The Wild put up a fight, but can't stop the streaking Spezza and the rest of the Stars offense. The goaltending's not great (for either team), but Dallas doesn't need it to be this series. Stars in 6.
Kathleen: The Stars should have every advantage, but the Wild are trouble if they can score first and slow the game down. Ultimately, I think the Central leaders are unstoppable. Stars in 6.
St Louis Blues (2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (3)
Taylor: Since "neither" is not an option, I guess I'll hope the Blues figure it out only to get crushed later on. Blues in 7.
Erin: Chicago remains the champions until proven otherwise and the Blues have a history of playoff failure, but this has to be St. Louis year to get through this matchup. Right? Blues in 7.
Robert: If writing about hockey has taught me anything, it is that the same teams will always do the same things to the same teams. Blackhawks in 4.
Marcus: Blues are way better than the Hawks, but I will buy into the narrative one more time. Blackhawks in 7.
Wes: I think the Blues burned me last year, too, but it feels like they finally get over the hump. Blues in 7.
David: Hawks are depleted on the blueline, and Crawford is questionable. Everyone makes a big deal about the Blues' history, but they're just a better team right now at virtually every level. Blues in 6.
Ann: The Hawks blue line is depleted and they're down Duncan Keith in the first game. The Blue could take this series, but past history has shown that even when they're down 3-0 in the series, it's best not to bet against the Hawks. Blackhawks in 7.
Derek: Chicago has played too much playoff hockey lately and it shows in this series, while the Blues make an emphatic statement about their ability to beat top teams. Blues in 6.
Huw: The Blues and the Blackhawks are two of the best teams in the West and they'll battle it out through seven games. My instinct says the Blues will come out on top in the end. Blues in 7.
Melissa: Toews and the Hawks give it their best shot, but Crawford struggles and Chicago ultimately falls short. Blues in 7.
Kathleen: It's a cliche to say the Hawks become a whole 'nother team in the playoffs, but it's usually true. The Blues will tear strips off them to prove otherwise, though. Blackhawks in 7.