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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Western Conference Preview

Dany Heatley hopes to help the San Jose Sharks live up to their potential in the 2010 NHL playoffs Dany Heatley hopes to help the San Jose Sharks live up to their potential in the 2010 NHL playoffs

It’s the time of year that all hockey fans wait for – the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Which of this year’s crop of 16 teams will be crowned champs? The San Jose Sharks earned a #1 seed, but will their legacy of let down plague them again this year?

The Sharks face the #8 seed Colorado Avalanche, who made the playoffs on the strength of their incredible start to the year. But down the stretch, the Avs were underwhelming.

The Sharks meanwhile, were borderline dominant at times this season. The addition of Dany Heatley only made the team more dangerous. But San Jose’s core is still in tact, and fans have seen the story with these guys before – put together an incredible regular season only to crap out in the playoffs.

Unless they win the Stanley Cup, the Sharks are bound to carry that legacy with them. However, they should have a little better luck this year, as the Colorado Avalanche are ripe for the picking.

That said, Colorado has already won Game 1. This could end up being one of the more interesting first round series.

A couple of time zones away, the #2 Chicago Blackhawks face the #7 Nashville Predators. This one is Chicago’s series to lose. The fast, talented, and young team looks to build on last year’s playoff success, and will turn to the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith to lead the way.

The ‘Hawks finished the year with the Western Conference widest scoring margin, having put 62 more pucks in the net than they allowed. Meanwhile, the Preds margin is even, making them the only playoff team in the Western Conference without a positive scoring margin.

The #3 Vancouver Canucks meet the #6 L.A. Kings in a battle of West Coast teams. The Canucks are coming off a strong season that saw them capture a division title in spite of playing two consecutive months of road games while Vancouver venues were occupied by Olympic activity.

Canucks forward Henrik Sedin finished the regular season as the NHL’s leading scorer. He and gold medal-winning goalie Roberto Luongo will be keys to Vancouver success.

The Kings will be looking to their youth to carry them through, as Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have blossomed into serious threats, while Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty provide a solid backline on defense.

The toughest Western Conference series to predict is the #4 Phoenix Coyotes versus #5 Detroit Red Wings. The Coyotes had a surge in the last half of the season, but the veteran Red Wings are always a threat in the post-season.

The Western Conference playoffs are underway, and it’s a dogfight for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. It’s a year of rare parity, when the Canucks, Blackhawks, Sharks, Coyotes, Red Wings, and Kings all seem like potential finalists. It’s a long tough road to hockey supremacy, but neither fans nor players would have it any other way.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 20:37

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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