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The Western Conference Preview

After an incredibly competitive race for the playoffs, the Western conference participants have finally been decided. Let's break down the teams, players and story lines that will lead us to a Campbell bowl winner, and the Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals.



Here's how the West finished up:

  1. San Jose - (53-18-11, 117 pts)
  2. Detroit - (51-21-10, 112 pts)
  3. Vancouver - (45-27-10, 100 pts)
  4. Chicago - (46-24-12, 104 pts)
  5. Calgary - (46-30-6, 98 pts)
  6. St. Louis - (41-31-10, 92 pts)
  7. Columbus - (41-31-10, 92 pts)
  8. Anaheim - (42-33-7, 91 pts)

1. San Jose Sharks

New coach Todd McLellan came in and took a team that had come so close to winning a regular season conference championship in the past, and finally threw the monkey off the back. However, a President's Trophy does not make a postseason, and it's no surprise that the knock on the Sharks right now is whether or not they can get over the playoff hump. But GM Doug Wilson opened the pocketbook this season, and added Dan Boyle, Rob Blake and Brad Lukowich over the summer, as well as Claude Lemiuex, Travis Moen and Kent Huskins during the season. After a heartbreaking loss to the Stars in the conference semifinals last year, and adding playoff experienced players to the roster, this Sharks squad is primed to break through and finally meet expectations.

Points: 86 ~ Joe Thornton

Goals: 38 ~ Patrick Marleau

Assists: 61 ~ Joe Thornton

Plus/Minus: +16 ~ Devin Setoguchi, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau / -18 ~ Travis Moen

Penalty Minutes: 116 ~ Jody Shelley

Last 10 Games: 5-4-1

2. Detroit Red Wings

The defending Stanley Cup champions completed a fourth straight season with at least 50 wins, and are loaded with talent up front and on the blue line. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk continued to thrive this season, and Johan Franzen continued to mature into a big time player and goal scorer. With the addition of Marian Hossa, the Wings can score goals in bunches. On defense, Nicklas Lidstrom was again the definition of consistency, and veteran Brian Rafalski had a banner year as well. The big question mark all season for the boys from Motown has been between the pipes, with Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin splitting time throughout the season. Osgood gets the nod to open the playoffs, but Conklin is waiting in the wings if Ozzie slips. Even with the plethora of talent that the Wings posses, they limp into the playoffs on a three game losing skid, and will have to get the bad taste out of their mouths quickly if they want to make a deep run.

Points: 97 ~ Pavel Datsyuk

Goals: 40 ~ Marian Hossa

Assists: 65 ~ Pavel Datsyuk

Plus/Minus: +34 ~ Pavel Datsyuk / -13 ~ Kris Draper

Penalty Minutes: 66 ~ Andreas Lilja

Last 10 Games: 3-6-1

3. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are the definition of a comeback team, rallying to win the Northwest Division late in the season only a few short months after going winless in eight straight games in January. Anchored up front by Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the 'Nucks have found additional scoring in Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. When it comes to goaltending, Roberto Luongo is still one of the league's best, despite being limited to only 54 appearances this season with a groin injury. If Luongo can get hot, and the scoring can stay up, the Canucks will be a force to be reckoned with in the West.

Points: 82 ~ Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin

Goals: 31 ~ Daniel Sedin

Assists: 60 ~ Henrik Sedin

Plus/Minus: +29 ~ Willie Mitchell / -5 ~ Mats Sundin

Penalty Minutes: 196 ~ Shane O'Brien

Last 10 Games: 6-3-1

4. Chicago Blackhawks

With a boatload of young, exciting talent, it's been a season to remember in the Windy City. Chicago's skilled front lines are led by youngsters Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who combined to score 139 points this season for the 'Hawks. The blue line is anchored by the speedy and skilled tandem of Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell, who finished the regular season with a combined 96 points. In net, Nikolai Khabibulin edged out Cristobal Huet, but either have the ability to stand tall and keep the Blackhawks in games. The real test for Chicago will be their lack of playoff experience, with eight of the 'Hawks making their first ever playoff starts. If Chicago can overcome the jitters of the playoff stage, they could make some noise this postseason.

Points: 77 ~ Martin Havlat

Goals: 34 ~ Jonathan Toews

Assists: 48 ~ Martin Havlat

Plus/Minus: +33 ~ Duncan Keith / -17 ~ Samuel Pahlsson

Penalty Minutes: 161 ~ Ben Eager

Last 10 Games: 7-2-1

5. Calgary Flames

This veteran Calgary squad looked poised to claim a division crown, but was chased down by the red hot Canucks late in the season. Despite missing a division championship, it was still a season to savor for the Flames. Led by another All Star performance from Jarome Iginla, the Calgary beefed up their scoring by adding Olli Jokinen at the trade deadline. The Flames grinding defense is led by Dion Phaneuf, and their netminder, Miikka Kiprusoff, is one of the very best in the game. However, first line scoring has dwindled down the stretch for Calgary, and if they can't find it quickly, it will be a short postseason stay.

Points: 89 ~ Jarome Iginla

Goals: 39 ~ Mike Cammalleri

Assists: 54 ~ Jarome Iginla

Plus/Minus: +20 ~ Craig Conroy / -15 ~ Jordan Leopold

Penalty Minutes: 112 ~ Corey Sarich

Last 10 Games: 4-6-0

6. St. Louis Blues

Despite a young lineup and a season full of injuries, the Blues methodically plodded along and quietly found their way into the playoff picture. Making their first postseason appearance in five years, St. Louis blends young scoring talent like David Perron and Brad Boyes with the veteran presence of Keith Tkachuk to provide a formidable offensive punch. With a blue line that has seen numerous injuries throughout the season, the defensive mantle has fallen sqaurely on the shoulders of netminder Chris Mason. Following a rough start, Mason has found his form, going 17-6-3 since January 19. The key for the Blues will be their special teams superiority, which will have to continue to excel if St. Louis wants to make it out of the first round.

Points: 72 ~ Brad Boyes

Goals: 33 ~ Brad Boyes

Assists: 39 ~ Brad Boyes

Plus/Minus: +19 ~ Patrick Berglund / -15 ~ Roman Polak

Penalty Minutes: 165 ~ David Backes

Last 10 Games: 8-1-1

7. Columbus Blue Jackets

Get ready to hear the term "underdog" every time you see the Blue Jackets take the ice. After nine seasons, Columbus finally solved the playoff riddle, and is looking to make noise in their first trip to the postseason. Led by the silky smooth Rick Nash, the Jackets have found a recipe for success under coach Ken Hitchcock, despite having only a single 30+ goal scorer. The real success story this season, however, is 20 year old goaltender Steve Mason. With a stingy 2.25 GAA and a .917 save percentage, Columbus will look to Mason to keep them in close games and potentially even steal a few wins.

Points: 79 ~ Rick Nash

Goals: 40 ~ Rick Nash

Assists: 39 ~ Rick Nash

Plus/Minus: +23 ~ Jan Hejda / -7 ~ Antoine Vermette

Penalty Minutes: 180 ~ Jared Boll

Last 10 Games: 3-3-4

8. Anaheim Ducks

A team that struggled to find an identity through most of the season, the Ducks are hitting their stride at the perfect time, finishing the season with a 7-2-1 record. The strength of this team remains their defense, with Scott Nidermayer and Chris Pronger anchoring the blue line. Up front, the Ducks go as the line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan goes, with veteran Teemu Selanne contributing as well. However, more balanced scoring will be a necessity in these playoffs, otherwise the Ducks will have to count on either Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Jonas Hiller to keep them in games.

Points: 91 ~ Ryan Getzlaf

Goals: 32 ~ Corey Perry

Assists: 66 ~ Ryan Getzlaf

Plus/Minus: +13 ~ Bobby Ryan / -17 ~ Rob Niedermayer

Penalty Minutes: 145 ~ Mike Brown

Last 10 Games: 7-2-1

The Match Ups

  • 1. San Jose Sharks vs. 8. Anaheim Ducks
  • 2. Detroit Red Wings vs. 7. Columbus Blue Jackets
  • 3. Vancouver Canucks vs. 6. St. Louis Blues
  • 4. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 5. Calgary Flames

1. Sharks vs. 8. Ducks

  • Regular Season Series: San Jose wins 4-2.
  • Despite the record, each team scored only 12 goals in the six game series.

2. Red Wings vs. 7. Blue Jackets

  • Regular Season Series: Detroit wins 3-2-1
  • Steve Mason went 3-2, with a .930 save percentage. Chris Osgood went 2-2-1, with a .855 save percentage.

3. Canucks vs. 6. Blues

  • Regular Season Series: Series tied 2-2.
  • Vancouver outscored St. Louis by one goal, 15-14.

4. Blackhawks vs. 5. Flames

  • Regular Season Series: Chicago wins 4-0.
  • Chicago outscored Calgary 19-7 this season and 11-3 at the United Center.