NHL First Round Playoff Predictions: Western Conference

The NHL Playoffs are here, fans are salivating to watch all the teams duke it out for the most coveted prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup.

There are some interesting match ups in the first round that few would have expected.

Who is most likely to move on to the next round of play in the Western Conference? Let's get to it...

Anaheim Ducks (1) Vs. Winnipeg Jets (4)

This a true David verses Goliath type scenario. No one expected the Winnipeg Jets to make the Playoffs but they did and will look to make a name for themselves this offseason. This team has seen a huge turn around with the leadership of head coach, Paul Maurice.

They have really come together and played some great team hockey. The task in front of the Jets, however, will be no walk in the park.

The Anaheim Ducks are a quality team with quality players. Ryan Getzlaf has already led this team to a Stanley Cup before, when they won in 2007. They also have former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry on the team and without mentioning all the other key pieces the Ducks have, this team is stacked. The only thing missing is the presence of NHL legend Teemu Selanne, who retired after last season.

Many believe that the Anaheim Ducks don't have what it takes to make it far this year and that may be true, but in this particular case, Winnipeg is outmatched in almost every aspect of the game.

Prediction: Anaheim Ducks win in 4 games

St. Louis Blues (1) Vs. Minnesota Wild (1)

Despite what the standings show, this will be a very tough match up. Minnesota have a good team and a great roster with so much depth. The Wild supporters know that the St. Louis Blues always struggle come Playoff time and will hope that their team can take advantage.

The goaltending of Devan Dubnyk has been fantastic and with Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek, this Minnesota Wild team is set offensively and is capable of beating the Blues.

The St. Louis Blues finished first in the Central Division for a reason. They are a good team with good players and look to make a deep run in the playoffs. Blues supporters believe that the key differentiator that they have this year is Vladimir Tarasenko. 

The Blues surely would have wanted a different match up in the first round, but the cards have been dealt and the time is now for St. Louis to go all in and prove the doubters wrong.

Prediction: St. Louis Blues win in 7 games

Nashville Predators (2) Vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3)

Nashville have had a great season, beyond the expectations of most. The Predators have really come into their own with acquisition of James Neal and the emergence of young stars Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg. They are led by their always reliable team captain Shea Weber, who is one of the best defenseman in the NHL. This team has the pieces to make a run in the Playoffs but will have to overcome a very difficult opponent in the Chicago Blackhawks.

With Patrick Kane returning from his injury for the Playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks have arguably the best roster in the NHL. They won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013 and have a good chance of winning it again this year. The Hawks have a solid, consistent goaltender in Corey Crawford, a powerful defense with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and recently acquied Kimmo Timonen, as well as a very potent offense, including the likes of, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brad Richards and many others.

Despite the standings this Chicago team is built for success and will be a lethal weapon come Playoff time. Many favour Chicago or the Rangers to win the cup this year so the Nashville Predators will have their hands full.

Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks win in 5 games

Vancouver Canucks (2) Vs. Calgary Flames (3)

The battle of Western Canada will take place this year and the Vancouver Canucks will have the home ice advantage.

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley elected to have his top players rest during the final game of the season, losing an opportunity at home ice advantage in the process. Calgary fans couldn't have been too happy with his decision, but then again, the decisions Hartley has made this season have helped the Flames achieve a Playoff spot when few thought it was possible.

The Calgary Flames have an honest chance in this match up. They have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL with Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo, as well as some good young scoring threats in Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The Flames are a young team looking to prove everyone wrong. In order to do that they will need to overcome the Canucks.

The Vancouver Canucks have had a fall from grace in recent years, after being constant Stanley Cup threats they began to fall out of the Playoff picture. Other than home ice advantage, the Canucks have experience on their side, the Sedin twins and goaltender Ryan Miller desperately want the honour of being called Stanley Cup Champions.

The key addition to the Canucks this season was Radim Vrbata who has had great chemistry with the Sedins and has helped make the Canucks a team worth fearing again.

Calgary captain Mark Giordano will not return to the Flames line up unless they make a deep run into the playoffs, and that is great news for the Canuck hopefuls. 

Prediction: Vancouver Canucks win in 7 games

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