Yesterday, we took a look at the Eastern Conference finals and made our picks and today we will do the same for the Western Conference.
The Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks are clearly the two best teams left in the final four and whoever comes out of this series with a win shouls be the favorite in the finals.
Make the jump to check out the picks and previews for the West...
Canucks (1) vs. Sharks (2)...
It is interesting that both the Canucks and Sharks took 3-0 leads in a previous series with an opportunity to make short order of the match but then had to go seven games to move on to the next round. It appears to have been a lesson learned for Vancouver as they did a better job of finishing off the Predators than they did Chicago. I guess it is yet to be seen how the Sharks will react after taking it to seven games with Detroit before finally winning.
The opening game is going to be very important for both teams. The Canucks have had a few days off while they waited for the Sharks to finish off the Wings and the Sharks will be going back at it after a couple of off days. I expect this to be a seven game series and an opening game win could set the stage for how the series eventually plays out
Both Vancouver and San Jose are 8-5 in the postseason, playing one short of the maximum number of games so far. The Sharks are averaging 2.92 goals per game while allowing the same 2.92 goals. Vancouver is scoring 2.31 goals while allowing even more at 2.54. The Canucks have averaged 31.5 shots a game while San Jose has been more aggressive at 36.5 shots a game.
Special teams play will be interesting as both teams have two very potent power play units. Vancouver is at 22.2% on the man advantage in spite of the Sedin twins not playing as well as expected. Ryan Kesler has carried their PP unit to this point. The Sharks have been below average on the man-advantage going at a 13.7% clip in the playoffs.
The Canucks are at 86.0 on the penalty kill while the Sharks are at 82.7. In five on five play the Sharks have a 1.04 ratio while Vancouver is at .86.
The match-up in goal will be a good one with last year's Cup winner Antti Niemi (7-5-0, 3.01, .906) going against Roberto Luongo (8-5-0, 2.25, .917) who has long been criticized for his average play in the post-season.
Vancouver is still missing Mikael Samuelsson while San Jose is in good health.
Both coaches, Alain Vigneault and Todd McClellan have used their top lines extensively up until this point but the Sharks have spread the ice to their third line to a greater extent as they appear deeper up the middle with Joe Pavelski on the third line.
Both teams are loaded with powerful forwards and Vancouver looks to be a little deeper on defense.The series will probably depend on which goalie gets hotter and is able to contain the other teams big scorers. Just like in the East, I expect a long seven-game series that may end up being a battle of attrition ans the two teams are first and second in the playoff in hits.
Vancouver in seven
San Jose in six
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass