April may bring a lot of rain showers but it also brings one of the best times in sports: playoff hockey. On Wednesday, April 15th the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs will commence once again. Sixteen teams from the National Hockey League will give it everything they’ve got to win the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. Here’s what to expect out of the Western Conference this year:
- Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets: The Jets will have their hands more than full as they begin a best-of-seven series against the top seeded Ducks. Anaheim finished the season atop the Western Conference with 109 points in the standings along with winning a whopping 51 games. Players like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and goaltender John Gibson can be lethal when they are on their game. The Ducks are a scary good team but Winnipeg may stand a chance. The Jets claimed the second wild card spot in the West with 99 points in the standings along with 43 wins for the season. Andrew Ladd, Brian Little, Mathieu Perreault, and Tyler Meyers are some key players that the team needs to do well. Winnipeg may not be the best team but they have been known to be thorns in the sides of their opponents and they could very well be just that against the mighty Ducks.
- Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Not many people would have had the Predators moving on to the postseason early in the year. New coach Peter Laviolette, along with a lot of talented players has gotten the Predators back into the playoffs. Rookie sensation Filip Forsberg finished the season with a team high 63 points and was the center of attention for the NHL in the early stages of the season. Defenseman Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne are two other powerhouse players that can lead the Predators far into the playoffs. On the other hand, the Chicago Blackhawks may be able to down Nashville. Chicago boasts a very deep lineup and forward Patrick Kane has recently been cleared to return to the ice after recovering from an injury the last seven weeks. Kane, along with captain Johnathan Toews are just two of Chicago’s forwards that can do some damage on the scoreboard. Both teams have met before in the postseason and Chicago has come out on top but now, Nashville is a different team. Will history repeat itself or will Nashville break through?
- St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild: Both of these teams have really grown in the past few seasons. The Blues finished the year in second place in the West and won the Central Division title as well. David Backes, TJ Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko are only a few players that are dangerous on St. Louis. Goaltenders Brian Elliot and Jake Allen have also been known to shut the door on the opposition as well. Minnesota will do their best to blast those doors wide open. The Wild finished the season as the first wild card team in the West. Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, and goaltender Devan Dubnyk are some key players for the team. Dubnyk has been unreal in between the pipes since he was traded to the Wild in mid-January. He will have to continue to be strong for the Wild to advance further into the playoffs. Each team has had difficulty making it far into the postseason in the last few years. St. Louis may be able to tame the Wild but Minnesota will not go down without a fight.
- Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames: In the past few years Vancouver has had their playoff struggles. This year, the Canucks finished fifth in the West with 101 points and 48 wins. The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, along with goaltenders Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack are the keystones to Vancouver’s success. Obviously other players will be contributors to the team’s success but the spotlight is on the players mentioned beforehand. On the other side of things, the Calgary Flames are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau, forwards Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan, and goaltender Jonas Hiller will be key players in the Flames’ success. They have all played very well this season and can help Calgary go deep in the playoffs. Vancouver and Calgary are both surprise teams in the playoffs this season and each team is hungry for a Stanley Cup. Some already think that the Flames will be extinguished early but they could still burn the Canucks in a tight series.
For more information on each series go to NHL.com.