The Orion

A quick look at the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs

San+Jose+Sharks+defenseman+Brent+Burns+celebrates+a+goal+against+the+Carolina+Hurricanes.%0AGetty+Images+photo+by+Ezra+Shaw
San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns celebrates a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Getty Images photo by Ezra Shaw

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns celebrates a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes. Getty Images photo by Ezra Shaw

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns celebrates a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes. Getty Images photo by Ezra Shaw

Andrew Baumgartner

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The Stanley Cup playoffs are here which means hockey season is about to end, but it also means the best hockey is about to be played.

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The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff bracket in round one. Photo Credit: NHL.com https://bracketchallenge.nhl.com/brackets/create?league=1&name=NHL%20League

Before the playoffs begin, let us look at how each team may fair, beginning with the Western Conference:

San Jose Sharks

San Jose will have a good chance of winning if they continue their balanced scoring. The Sharks went to the finals in 2016 thanks to the stellar play of goaltender Martin Jones. If Jones can replicate his performance that year, the Sharks will be tough to beat. The Sharks late-season pickup Evander Kane should continue to provide a solid boost to the offense of San Jose.

The x-factor could prove to be injured veteran Joe Thornton. If Thornton can return at any point for this team during the playoffs, then that would be another huge boost.

On the other hand, San Jose has been inconsistent this year. Their offense, defense, and goaltending have all gone on cold streaks throughout the year. The playoffs is not the time to have any part of the team go cold.

Vegas Golden Knights

Watch for Vegas to have playoff success especially if goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is healthy and playing his version of playoff hockey. Fleury previously won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so clearly the guy knows how to win.

If Vegas struggles, it could be because of team chemistry. The Knights have only been around for one year, not a lot of time to get to know how your teammates play and the regular season is not the same compared to the playoffs.

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings core may be the best reason why this team has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Anze Kopitar has had a bounce-back year and leads the team in scoring. Expect veteran players like Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and goaltender Jonathan Quick to turn their playoff motors on as this core has done before to win the Championship.

The one thing that may hold the Kings back from winning the Cup is their backup goaltender Jack Campbell. If something happens to Quick, then the team needs to rely on a goalie who has only played seven NHL games in his career, but hopefully for the Kings that won’t happen.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks core won a Stanley Cup recently, albeit Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are the only two that remain from that cup winning squad. With a solid defensive core and great goalie play by net-minders John Gibson and veteran Ryan Miller, the Ducks could be in it for the long haul.

The downside for the Ducks is that they have trouble scoring. Of all the playoff teams, they have scored the least amount of goals. You can’t win games if you can’t score goals, but hey “defense wins championships,” right?

Nashville Predators

Nashville is the best team in the league and the probable favorites for the Cup. They boast an offense and defense in the top 10 in terms of goal scoring and have an excellent goaltender in Pekka Rinne.

Nashville doesn’t look to have a weakness, especially with a balanced scoring attack and speed throughout the lineup, but we have seen stranger things happen in the playoffs. The Predators will have no one to blame but themselves if they lose.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche have an uphill battle especially with the injuries to starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov and defenseman Erik Johnson.

The Avalanche, however could be a surprise team if Nathan MacKinnon can take over the playoffs and backup Jonathon Bernier can play steady enough to right the ship. The reality for the Avalanche is that they are huge underdogs against Nashville and realistically have a slim chance of advancing.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets were very dominant this year, finishing in the top five in goals and goals allowed. The Jets also have one of the best goaltenders this year in Connor Hellebuyck and a young high scoring offense which makes them a prime candidate to win the Stanley Cup.

On the other hand, inexperience in playoff games may be this team’s downfall as playoff experience is a key to winning the Stanley Cup.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild’s success to winning the Stanley Cup depends on how the team plays without injured defenseman Ryan Suter. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk can turn himself into a brick wall for long stretches and hopefully 13-year veteran Eric Staal can keep up his production. If all of those things happen we may see the Wild hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Minnesota, realistically, will be hurting without Suter and may be out early especially if the Jets continue their hot stretch of play.

Be sure to check in shortly to see the preview for the Eastern Conference.

Andrew Baumgartner can be reached at [email protected] or @abaum94 on Twitter.

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A quick look at the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs