08 April 2010
With only one game left for the Canucks against the Flames on Saturday night, a game which is completely irrelevant to the playoff order in the West, the Canucks are playing for nothing. Since it really isn't up to the Canucks as to who they will end up playing in the first round the only thing about Saturday night's game that will matter to the Canucks is to STAY HEALTHY.
But even though we have no power over the order, it's still fun to look at the week ahead about who we might face off against in the first round of the playoffs. Mathematically there are only three possibilities of who we could play: Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators or LA Kings. All are winnable in a series for the Canucks, but there are still some pros and cons about preference of who we play.
All three teams are sitting at 98 points after last night, with LA and Detroit having two games left while Nashville only has one. Right now Nashville has the tie breaker between the three teams with the most wins.
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings still have two games remaining, one at Columbus and one at Chicago and have a 35% of ending up in 6th spot. In the four games played this season, the Wings have won 3 and the Canucks 1. Though they are currently tied in points, both LA and Nashville have the tiebreaker over Detroit. They are currently listed ahead of the Preds since they still have a game in hand over them.
The Red Wings are a scary team. I can't think of any fan of a Western Conference team that actually wants a matchup against the Wings. In addition to just being plain good there is also a good 4 hour flight from Vancouver to Detroit and a three hour time difference. There is also a built up fear against the Wings being a better team, regardless if they are the better team or not. The only thing 'questionable' about the Wings is really their goalie Jimmy Howard and his lack of experience. But if you've seen Roberto Luongo lately, then Howard's inexperience in the playoffs is not as worrisome as Luongo's knob of his stick lately.
Continued after the jump...
The Predators have one game remaining against St. Louis at home on fan appreciation night and have a 38% chance of ending up in 6th spot. In the four games played this season between the two, the teams have split the wins. Their team is one of the lowest scoring with only 216 goals scored compared to Vancouver's 259. They have also lost their leading scorer Patric Hornqvist to a slapshot by Shea Weber in the last game against the Coyotoes. It would be brutal for the Predators if they lose Hornqvist for any amount of time in the playoffs, but Barry Trotz is saying that he'll be ready for game one of the playoffs.
Like Detroit, the flight time from Vancouver to Nashville is 4 hours and they have a time change of two hours. Although Nashville doesn't score as much as the Canucks they are also a very good defensive team. Barry Trotz has worked wonders with his roster in getting them to the playoffs with so few goals to speak of. Nashville lets in about the same amounts of goals that Vancouver does, 220 and 211 respectively so no advantage to either team there.
The Kings have two games left, one at home against Edmonton and one away in Denver and have a 27% chance of ending up in 6th spot. Overlooking the 8-3 routing against the Kings earlier this month, the Canucks have done well over the Kings this season with Vancouver having 3 wins to that one by LA. The Kings do have some youth on their team, but having not made the playoffs in the past 7 years drops their overall team playoff experience. I don't think playoff experience is that big of a factor in the 1st round, thus I don't count this as a huge factor for a preferable matchup. Do they have what it takes to take a series? Oh quite possibly, but will they actually go all the way? No probably not.
One of the biggest factors as to why you would want to play the Kings is for two reasons: they are in your time zone and the flight is only 2 hours between Vancouver and LAX.
So what's my choice?
I'd pick LA based on the travel time alone. The same time zone makes it nice so that we won't have to skip out of work early to catch the early games. As a team matchup, the Kings against are preferred just based on our record against them, with Nashville being the secondary preference.
*Playoff percentages were taken from Sports Club Stats
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