As the NHL came down the stretch over the last couple weeks, fans of all of the teams solidly in the top half of the standings began worrying about their potential first round opponents. As Blues fans looked at who would fall into the seven and eight seeds, we all worried about which offense or which hot goaltending our team would have to play.
The consensus on which team we were most comfortable seeing in the first round? None of them.
Phoenix and Los Angeles are giving people fits with their netminders. The Sharks have too many offensive weapons. The Dallas Stars could have gotten hot at any time with either offense or goaltending. Colorado looked to be heating up at just the right time. There wasn't one team fighting for a playoff spot that all fans looked at and said, "I hope we get those guys."
What's that really saying? Every team in the playoffs in West deserves to be there and there isn't one easy series out there. Some might argue that the Panthers don't look like a third seed team, but they earned the spot and their matchup looks like a pretty even one too.
Looking at the matchups, with the regular season head-to-head record shows that there are very few easy-to-spot sweeps out there.
- Vancouver vs Los Angeles: The one vs eight seed could be a battle. The Kings underperformed most of the year and then played great down the stretch. They split the season series 2-2, so this one could go the distance in a seven game series.
- Blues vs Sharks: The Blues owned the Sharks this year, going 4-0 in the regular season, but one game was a 1-0 win and the 4-2 win included an empty-netter. These teams look like they could battle.
- Phoenix vs Chicago: There were a lot of Hawks fans hoping their team would tank it a little to ensure they got the sixth seed and got to play a Pacific team rather than Nashville or Detroit. They got what they wished for: playing a streaking team with a hot goalie. The Coyotes went 3-1 against the Blackhawks this year but don't have the playoff experience. This one isn't going to be easy for either team.
- Nashville vs Detroit: The best thing that could have happened to every other team in the conference as two good teams will beat the crap out of each other and one will be eliminated. These teams went 3-3 against each other in the regular season, so this one could be extended too. Kinda looks like the home team might win every game, doesn't it?
- New York vs Ottawa: On first glance I thought this might the one to bank on for a walk-over, but the Senators handled their business this year, going 3-1 against the Rangers in the regular season. Gotta look at the Rainjahs as the favorite, but Ottawa could make this a battle too.
- Boston vs Washington: Another matchup that looked initially like a mismatch as the Capitals have been all over the boards this year and the Bruins play a consistent, solid game seemingly every game. But the Caps have had success against the B's this season, going 3-1.
- Florida vs New Jersey: In both conferences, the third seed is getting panned as being the higher seed, but also being the underdog. The Panthers and Devils tied their season series 2-2, so there's no reason to think this won't be a long series too.
- Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia: The Flyers went 4-2 against the Penguins this season, but much of that was against a less than 100% Pens group. The NHL, NBC and every hockey fan out there hopes this thing goes to seven games because it looks like it could be the best series out there. If nothing else, this is the series where the fans hate each other the most.