Just as we all guessed, there are no Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, or Chicago Blackhawks left this season. We're going to have quite a different playoffs in the West this season. So who comes out on top and will battle for the conference title next round?
San Jose Sharks (3) vs Nashville Predators (WC1)
Taylor: I will laugh at glee when a Central team raises a Pacific divisional title banner next season. Predators in 6.
Erin: Just the series we all expected, right? Given my success in the first round predictions, I clearly know nothing about the Pacific. Given that, I'm going full MDK chaos and maximum NHL front office tears. Predators in 7.
Robert: San Jose looks about as good as they ever have, which is to say capable of being eliminated in the Conference Finals. The Perds have been a nice story, but their defense will crumple under the Jaws of Death. Sharks in 4.
David: San Jose not only beat an underachieving Kings team, but they did so convincingly. I expect Nashville's goaltending to come back down to Earth. Plus I can't root for James Neal (who elbowed to the head again last night) or any team that would run Seth Jones out of town, justification for offense be damned. Sharks in 6.
Wes: You're effectively betting Pekka Rinne holds up for another series. I don't think he can. The Sharks are deeper and have the size to cope with Nashville's burly defence. Sharks in 6.
Ann: Nothing stops the Sharks train. I would also find it hilarious if the Predators became the Pacific Conference Champs, because why not a Central domination? But Sharks depth (and multiple rows of teeth) will win the day. Sharks in 6.
Marcus: Both incredible series in the Pacific for different reasons. However, the Sharks were more impressive. Sharks in 6.
Melissa: The Preds' high from knocking off the Ducks doesn't last long. The Sharks continue to look like a Cup contender and take care of business quickly. Sharks in 5.
Kathleen: Part of me wants Nashville to become Pacific Division champs just because of the lulz (and the perverse #MurderDeathKill Division pride), but the Sharks have tasted blood, and they want more. The Preds' tougher path to this point may be their end. Sharks in 7.
Huw: Maybe I'm too easy to impress but the Sharks handled a very good Kings side without too much problem. I don't think the Predators can keep up with them. Sharks in 5.
Dallas Stars (1) vs St. Louis Blues (2)
Taylor: This feels like it should be a Western Conference final, doesn't it? Both teams battled to the end for the Central Division top seed, so I'm anticipating several overtime games this series. Ultimately, either team will be deserving of this win, and it's going to be a close one. Going with my heart though here. Stars in 7.
Erin: This series is going to be as tight as they come. Overtime skews the regular season record, but the Stars and Blues were as close as close could get in their five games. Game-breaking talent could make all the difference, and the Stars just have more bullets in that gun. Stars in 7.
Robert: The Stars will never lose another game again for the rest of forever. This is called The Power of Positive Positing. Stars in 4.
David: If Seguin is healthy, this is as competitive as it gets. He's not, so it won't. Even with Benn and Spezza spitting fire, defense and goaltending have to deal with Tarasenko. Benn will have Parayko AND Eakin tied to his ankles. I think Dallas will be competitive, but the Blues have superior depth at all positions without Seguin to be Dallas' wild card. Blues in 6.
Wes: The season series was closer and more explainable than we remember. Beating 2016 Chicago was also less a feat than pessimistic fans will allow. The Blues are likely the most formidable team in the bracket, but if Dallas can get just a little bit of goaltending they're beatable. My heart says Stars in 7, my head says this is a learning year and Blues in 6. Screw it, heart wins. Stars in 7.
Ann: Look, me abstaining worked really well for us last time, so I'm choosing to abstain again.
Marcus: The Blues are good, but that was an emotional series against their arch-enemies in Chicago. The goaltending started to leak at the end, and the Hawks aren't the Stars. Dallas plays their best hockey when they aren't supposed to win. The national pundits and Blues' fans don't know what they're in for. Stars in 6.
Melissa: The experts are giving the edge to the Blues, and that's fair. But the Captain goes full beast-mode, Spezza's scoring doesn't stop, and Kari keeps calm when it matters. Stars in 7.
Kathleen: You think I'll be the one to bet against the home team? I expect this to be the toughest series in the tournament, but Our Gang has what it needs to prevail, if (when) they put it all together. That said: Stage 5, beginning to end. Stars in 7.
Huw: I think this series will be the closest of the entire playoffs as they are both equally matched. I'm a pessimist though. Blues in 7.