This past Saturday, the NHL wrapped-up the regular season to set the stage for this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Starting later this week, the top eight teams in each conference will begin their quest for a coveted world title.
The following is a brief look at each of the four best-of-seven opening-round matchups in the Western Conference along with a few key facts and figures to help handicap the games.
No.8 Los Angeles Kings vs. No.1 Vancouver Canucks
The Kings dropped three of their final four games to fall all the way to the eighth-seed in the West after blowing a chance to win the highly competitive Pacific Division. Los Angeles ended the regular season with 95 points and an overall record of 40-27-15. It was 22-14-5 at home and 18-13-10 on the road. The Kings went 37-45 against the puck line but had a +839 return on the money line.
Vancouver claimed the top spot in the West with the most points in the NHL at 111 as a result of an 8-1-1 record down the stretch. The Canucks went 27-10-4 at home this season and were almost as good on the road at 24-12-5. They had a +641 return on the money, but were just 36-46 against the puck line.
These two split their four games this season with each winning a game at home and once on the road. The total went 0-1-3 with the two combining to score five goals in three of the games. LA is just 3-8 in its last 11 trips to Vancouver. The Canucks tied Chicago for the highest scoring average in the Western Conference with 2.94 goals-per-game.
No.7 San Jose Sharks vs. No.2 St. Louis Blues
San Jose’s home-and-home sweep of the Kings to close-out the year was only good enough to secure the seventh-seed in the West. The Sharks compiled an overall record of 43-29-10 and had 93 points. They were tough to beat at home this year at 26-13-3, but an even 17-17-7 on the road. San Jose’s return on the money line was -1532 and it was the worst team in the league against the puck line at 28-54.
St. Louis streaked to a Central Division title with a strong second half, but dropped four of its last five regular season games. It was 49-22-11 with 109 points and deadly at home at 30-6-5, but a very average road team at 19-16-6. The Blues went 35-47 against the puck line and were basically even on the money line at +17.
The Sharks dropped all four games to St. Louis this season by a combined score of 11-3. The total stayed ‘under’ in the last three meetings. The favorite in this series is 19-7 in the last 26 meetings and the total has stayed ‘under’ in the last four games played in St. Louis.
No.6 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No.3 Phoenix Coyotes
The regular season was one big roller-coaster ride for Chicago with peaks and valleys around every bend. It finished with 101 points and an overall record of 45-26-11 and went 6-1-3 in its last 10 games. The Blackhawks were 27-8-6 at home but just 18-18-5 on the road. They had a -236 return on the money line and a 38-44 record against the puck line.
Phoenix managed to claim the Pacific Division title with five-game winning streak as part of a 7-1-2 finish down the stretch. It is 42-27-13 with 97 total points. The Coyotes are 22-13-6 at home this season and 20-14-7 on the road. They boast a 50-32 record against the puck line and a +2171 return on the money line.
Chicago won the first meeting this season but lost the next three including twice at home as a moderate favorite. The total went an even 2-2 in the four games. The favorite is 5-2 in the last seven meetings and the total has stayed ‘under’ in 24 of the last 35 meetings.
No.5 Detroit Red Wings vs. No.4 Nashville Predators
Detroit spent a fair amount of time this season as the top team in the West, but a dismal 5-12 record in its last 17 games dropped it to fifth-place in the West with 102 points and an overall record of 48-28-6. The Red Wings remain the best home team in the league at 31-7-3 but are 17-21-3 on the road this year. They are 39-43 against the puck line but +995 on the money line.
Nashville climbed over Detroit and Chicago in the Central Division to fourth in the conference with 104 points. The Predators are 48-26-8 overall. They are 26-10-5 at home and 22-16-3 in 41 road games. Nashville comes into the playoffs as the fourth-highest scoring team in the West with a goals-per-game average of 2.83. It is +1401 on the money line and 44-38 against the puck line.
The season series between the two was tied at three games apiece with each team winning twice at home. The total has stayed ‘under’ in seven of the last 10 meetings. Nashville has a slight 6-4 advantage in those 10 games.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.