The Western Conference Semifinal round is set after the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 late Sunday night. Here are the matchups along with my predictions.
1. Chicago Blackhawks vs. 7. Detroit Red Wings
The Blackhawks will be well rested after defeating the Minnesota Wild in 5 games while the Red Wings are coming off a hard fought 7 game series versus the Anaheim Ducks. Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was outstanding in the first round and he will have to continue his outstanding play if the Red Wings want to advance to the Western Conference Final. Patrick Sharp led the Blackhawks in the first round with 5 goals and 1 assist and Marian Hossa chipped in with 3 goals and 3 assists. I expect the Blackhawks potent offense to lead the charge and advance to the Western Conference Final.
Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks in 6
5. Los Angeles Kings vs. 6. San Jose Sharks
The Kings will face the Sharks in the other Western Conference Semifinal matchup. This series should be very physical and closely contested. The Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks in the first round while the Kings won 4 straight after dropping the first two games to the St. Louis Blues. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was stellar in net against the Blues and Jeff Carter led the Kings offense with 3 goals. The Sharks were led by their power-play unit in their first round matchup. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski each scored 3 power-play goals in the sweep of the Canucks. If the Kings can stay out of the box and Jonathan Quick stays hot, the Kings should return to the Western Conference Final.
Prediction: Los Angeles Kings in 7