TCL Staff Predictions: Western Conference!

As promised in this morning's Eastern Conference Predictions, the first round of the playoffs in the West is next on our list.

The west is very interesting this year. Four series that we don't see very often, if at all, including several teams who are new to the playoff scene. While the powerhouses in San Jose and Detroit are present, and cup favorites Vancouver and Chicago are also there, some of these series could definitely go either way.

So, once again, here are the predictions for the first round in the Western Conference, from 10 TCL writers from all corners of the NHL, as well as TCL's Mascot, Checkers the Cat!

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SERIES 5: San Jose Sharks (1) vs. Colorado Avalance (8 )

Regular Season Records: Sharks - 51-20-11 113pts; Avalanche - 43-30-9 95pts
TCL Consensus pick: Sharks in 6 games

Interestingly enough, only Checkers the Cat gives the Avs a chance, choosing them to win in 5 games, while everyone else on the panel thinks the Sharks will have this one in the bag - despite prior playoff troubles. While the Sharks try to overcome the choking stigma once again, the Avs will try to overcome a rough end of the season, having gone 3-5-2 in their last ten. The Avs do have a good mix of youth and experience, and have come out of nowhere to make the playoffs after finishing in the draft lottery last year, but will this team with little to no expectations be able to beat the juggernaut that is the Sharks?

Rob McGowan: Can the Sharks finally prove that they are a team worthy of competing for the Stanley Cup? Each year it seems they are one of the best teams in the league but then struggle to make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. However, with that being said, I expect them to make it past a young Avs team that is led by rookie forward Matt Duchene. Sharks in 7.

George Prax Just like every first round match up they're in, year-in and year-out, the Sharks need to win this series in a dominant fashion. This year, It think they will do just that. The Avs have fallen hard in recent time and are the only western team without 100 points to make the playoffs. The Sharks will be motivated and will not choke this year, at least not in the first round. Sharks for the Sweep.

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SERIES 6: Chicago Blackhawks (2) vs. Nashville Predators (7)

Regular Season Records: Blackhawks - 52-22-8 112pts; Predators 47-29-6 100pts
TCL Consensus pick: Blackhawks in 6 games

The Hawks started off this year as most people's pick to win the cup. While people are still predicting that they will find themselves at this year's dance, question marks in goal are working against them. And with a not very well-known group of Predators that really don't have much expectations resting on their shoulders, does this have the potential to be our ''shocker'' upset of the playoffs?

Rob McGowan: Chicago is the team that EA Sports' NHL 2010 predicts to win the Stanley Cup. Like the Caps of the East, the Hawks are my favorite team in the West and my favorite in the league after the Islanders as well. They are young, home grown, well-coached and well-developed. They are going to take this series in 6 games and are my pick as this year's Stanley Cup champs in a 7-game series with the Washington Caps - you heard it here first.

George Prax While there are a few dissenters picking the Preds to upset the Hawks, I simply don't see how it could happen. The Hawks are red-hot going into this, and just like the Sharks, will live up to their regular season record, at least in this, the first round. No way the Hawks lose this series. In fact, it will be an easy one - 5 games.

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SERIES 7: Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. Los Angeles Kings (6)

Where to follow: Canucks - Phil Y, James Edington
Regular Season Records: Canucks - 49-28-5 103pts; Kings 46-27-9 101pts
TCL Consensus pick: Canucks in 6

In another upset, Checkers the Cat joins Scott Lowe in predicting that the Kings will take this series. Checkers thinks this will be a big surprising, giving the Kings the clean sweep, while Scott thinks it will go to 7. The consensus is that this will probably be somewhere in between. The Canucks have absolutely dominated at times, staking a claim to the Art Ross winner and potential Hart candidate in Henrik Sedin, not to mention certain Selke candidate Ryan Kesler, captain Roberto Luongo and the rest of their deep line-up. The Kings are not a team to mess around with, however, boasting dominant young players in every position, including Erik Johnson, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Jonathan Quick. This will be a good series, and a close one.

Rob McGowan: I am very happy to see the Kings organization and their fans FINALLY get treated to another playoff berth. It has been long overdue. However, I feel that inexperience might be the final verdict in their match-up with the Canucks. Vancouver's offense has been spectacular and they are led by Roberto Luongo between the pipes. The Canucks will take the series in 6 games in, what should be, a very exciting series.

George Prax Watch out for the Canucks this year. While everyone is talking about the Caps and Hawks, the Canucks have quietly built an incredibly deep team. They have dominant players in every position, and while no one was looking and his twin brother was out with a broken foot, Henrik Sedin won the Art Ross trophy and will like stand a good shot at winning the Hart trophy as well. If Roberto Luongo is as dominant as everyone knows he can be, the Canucks will not only win this series, but will stake a claim for the Stanley Cup. The Kings will put up a fight, but their lack of playoff experience will bite them where the sun don't shine - Nucks in 6.

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SERIES 8: Phoenix Coyotes (4) vs. Detroit Red Wings (5)

Where to Follo: Coyotes - Kathy K.
Regular Season Records: Coyotes 50-25-7 107pts; Red Wings 44-24-14 102pts
TCL Consensus pick: Red Wings in 6

Arguably the most anticipated series in the entire playoffs. Everyone was looking at the Wings to surmount a comeback once they got healthy, and they did, climbing to 5th place after sitting out of the playoffs for most of the year. As for the Coyotes, no one saw this coming. Not only do they make the playoffs for the first time in a while, not only do they do it in a year where their existence is in jeopardy, but they have home ice advantage over the Red Wings as well. While the Sharks and Hawks were probably afraid of facing the Wings in the first round, the Yotes were probably relishing the idea. This will definitely compete for series of the season, and will definitely be closer than it would normally have been in years past.

Rob McGowan: The Yotes have put themselves back on the map and it's about freakin' time. Dave Tippet has done an excellent job with this hockey team and they have a good mix of veteran leadership and young talent. Detroit, although talented, does not have enough fire power to make it out of the first round and are going into the playoffs with a rookie net-minder. Altough Howard is the deserved starter, I see the Coyotes advancing to the second round after 6 games.

George Prax Simply put, the Wings will put their experience to good use here. The Coyotes should not be underrated or underappreciated, but a healthy Red Wings group is something everyone should be afraid of in these playoffs. The Coyotes will make it interesting and stretch it to seven games, but I think this is the Wings' series to lose. Wings in 7.

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Once again, to check out the Eastern Conference predictions from this morning, Click here!.

Also, keep an eye on TCL throughout the playoffs as we will be covering every series from as many angles as possible.

As always, rate, hate, and debate the staff's pick in the comments section below.