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Chief's NHL Western Conference Playoffs Watchability Index

It’s finally here. We wait all year for this. No more whinging about your team(my team). It’s time to just sit back adn enjoy it. There is nothing better than playoff hockey and even though that’s a cliche it’s also 100000% true. The intensity ramps up, the buildings are loud, the players are tough as shit, the games are played at a breakneck speed. It’s the best and these first two weeks where there are 3 or 4 games every night and you’re staying up until 3am watching a triple OT West Coast game. It starts on Wednesday and I am here to give you a bite sized preview on which series you should focus on if you’re a neutral fan.

West Bracket 1

west bracket pac

I am going to grade these match-ups based on star power, villains, buildings, and styles. Those are the four categories more than anything else that can make a series absolutely electric and must-see TV even if it ends the next morning.

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St Louis Blues vs Winnipeg Jets

Dustin+Byfuglien+Winnipeg+Jets+vs+St+Louis+a4ZG1EMsGb4l

These teams looks kind of similar getting off the bus. They’ve both got some BIG boys who don’t mind mixing it up and throwing the body around. That is great for turning a series into a powder keg. A face wash in game 1 becomes a brawl in game 5 and I personally LOVE that. That’s about where the similarities end though. Two teams heading in opposite directions. Winnipeg has been extremely average down the stretch going 14-14-3 while the Blues have been annoyingly the hottest team in the NHL since they fired their coach. The Blues were 23-6-4 since the beginning of February. How the fuck is that even possible?

Star Power Rating: 8/10

This series has a TON of great players. Byfuglien, Connor, Wheeler, Scheifle, and Patrick Laine can all change the course of a game and Tarasenko is a top 5 clench your butt when he’s on the ice type of a player. Legitimately scary with the puck on his stick. Winnipeg stars don’t get as much national spotlight probably because they play in Winnipeg and that’s shame because they’re awesome.

Villain Rating: 10/10

Anytime Dustin Byfuglien is involved the villain rating is going to get a 10 from me. He’s a bully and I love it. The biggest strongest baddest dude whenever he feels like it

He’s mean and a troll and nobody is big enough or crazy enough to do anything to stop him….except for a few guys on the Blues. I could see Colton Parayko grabbing Buff in a scrum.  I could see Ryan O’Reilly giving him an extra whack. Should be fun to see if Buff has his way with STL in the series.

Buildings: 7/10

winnipeg white out

The Winnipeg White out is about as sweet as it gets. Small building, super fucking loud, and nobody cares about anything more than the people of Winnipeg care about the Jets. A true home ice advantage. Then there’s the Scottrade center which objectively sucks and so does St Louis. That’s just one man’s opinion, but there’s nothing special about Blues home games.

Styles:

Styles make fights. I always prefer a battle where two teams want to play the same style and preferably if that style is to play fast and loose. That will NOT be the case here. The Blues are going to try to win every game 2-1 and that’s what they have to do to survive and they’ve done it to basically perfection since the calendar turned to February. They’re the Floyd Mayweather of the NHL playoffs. Boring as fuck. Systems, structure, and hoping for timely scoring by a couple of high-end finishers like Tarasenko. The Jets want to play with speed, skill, and tempo. If they can force the Blues out of their gameplan and dictate the pace of the game then it could be a short series. I don’t think that’ll be the case though. I think the Blues are going to force the Jets to play in the mud. Fight and claw for every inch. I have a feeling this one is going 7.

It might get ugly and that’s not a bad thing.

OVERALL: 8.9/10

Dallas Stars vs Nashville Predators

preds vs stars

I’ve got a sneaky feeling that the Preds are ripe for an upset here. Not going to put money on it, but the Preds haven’t been quite right all season long and now they’ve got a team that plays with intensity, structure, and great goaltending coming to town. That’s a recipe for the playoffs. Yes, the Stars only have one real line, but that middle six has guys who can get you “playoff goals”. Greasy goals. Gritty goals. Tips, rebounds, screens. A hot and healthy Ben Bishop might be able to steal this one

Star Power: 8.5/10

TOP HEAVY star power in this one. I would say even casual fans are familiar with the big guns in this one. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and PK Subban. And these playoffs could be coming out party for the Stars young dmen Klingberg and Heiskanen. Those guys should carry the play and they’ll be great to watch. The series is likely going to take on a more defensive look, but those guys will provide enough special moments to make the series fun.

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Villain Rating: 8.5/10

Maybe it’s just me, but the Preds have a TON of hatable guys. Subban, Watson, McLeod, are all on my shit list. Then the Preds went out and got both Wayne Simmonds and Brian Boyle. I know everyone seems to love Boyle because he came back from cancer. Having said that, anyone who threatens to murder someone on the ice gets villain status from me.

There’s enough bad boys in this series to help get it boiling. Goals and space will be difficult to come by in this one and that means frustration levels will be high. There’s going to be a few scraps in this series, I can feel it.

Building Rating: 8/10

I am torn here because I am getting tired of everyone sucking Nashville’s dick all the time. The “let it be” thing is cool and it gets loud in there. It’s a great barn. I’ve seen a couple games in there and their fans always bring the noise even if they don’t always know what’s going on in the game. What I don’t like is how they stole basically all their “traditions” from UNH hockey. Throwing the fish, a bunch of the chants, etc. All that shit started at UNH, as far as I know, and the Preds fans don’t deserve credit for originality.

Dallas…I almost gave them an incomplete. I honestly can’t remember what the American Airlines Center is like during the playoffs. I was in such a fog after the Hawks got knocked out in 2016 by the Blues that I barely watched the following round. I feel like there’s nothing particularly special about Stars games though just like there’s nothing particularly special about the city of Dallas. It’s just sort of there. No descernable culture to speak of. It’s a lame city.

Style:

Again, this is a series that has some upset potential. If Dallas is able to dictate pace, and they don’t let Nashville get them out of their structure then they’ve got a chance. And…I really like Monty as a coach. He got that group humming along in the second half of the year after the team president called them shit for brains or whatever the quote was.

monty

There’s a lot of brains in that big bald head. I think Monty will have something cooked up for the Preds. I think this will be a long series as well. Bet the under in every game

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Overall: 9.0/10

Colorado Avalanche vs Calgary Flames

avs vs flames

Buckle up and bet the over, this series is going to be an absolute track meet. Both teams like to play fast. Both teams have had some issues either defensively or in goal and both teams have stars all over the ice. It might not be the best series, but it could be the most fun. If the Avs get their PP cooking and Grubauer stays hot in net then Colorado could make this thing interesting because…the Flames still haven’t sorted out their goalie situation. They have:

Goalie A:

rittich

Goalie B:

mike smith

And they’re going with goalie B beause he stole a series against the Blackhawks in 2012 or something. Mike Smith is 37 years and he stinks. No idea why Calgary is making him the starter for game 1, but that just means we are going to have some fun and we are going to hit the over.

Star Power: 9.2/10

Look at the top of the NHL scoring. Two of the top 8 scorers in the NHL are in this series and it would’ve been three of the top 8 had Mikko Rantanen not gotten hurt down the stretch. The Flames also have Mark Giordano on defense who should win the Norris Trophy this year. The series is LOADED with names. Jonny Hockey, Nate MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Gabriel Landeskog, TJ Brodie, Noah Hanafin, and…Matthew Tkachuk. And speaking of Tkachuk:

Villain Rating: 10/10

matthew tkachuk a

Matthew Tkachuk seems like he was born to be a playoff hero and villain at the same time. Big, phsyical, mean, mouthy, and fucking good at hockey. He is everything you want to see in the playoffs. He is the guy who can make the other team lose their cool and have the series boil over. It’s going to be great. Anyone who has a video from just their rookie year titled “12 minutes of pissing people off” gets a 10 villain rating

Buildings: 9.5/10

Both stadiums absolutely bring it during the playoffs. I had actually forgotten how wild Colorado gets during the playoffs. Their crowd was every bit as much of a factor last year as Nashville’s was during that series. It’s loud and intense and it’s a mile high. Then you’ve got the Saddle Dome

saddle dome

Look at that fucking thing. It’s sweet. It might be old and out-dated but it is objectively sweet looking. And I’ve also convinced myself that the roof hanging down like that makes the stadium exponentially louder than a normal stadium. The noise has no where to go. No where to escape. Just goes right back down to the ice. I don’t know if that’s true, but it feels very true. The other thing that is sweet about Calgary…the sea of red

flames fans

The Jets have the white and Calgary has the sea of red. I don’t think it’s even planned though. I think every single citizen in Calgary is issued a jersey and they just wear their jerseys to the game.

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Styles:

Styles make fights and this is going to be the most electric series of them all. I said it in the open. It’s going to be fast and loose and there will be a lot of scoring. In fact, if I were going to take a non-hockey fan and try to convert them this is the series I would make them watch. It’ll have some fights, it’ll have a shit ton of goals, and the atmospheres will be sensational. Both teams are a little top heavy. I really hope these teams just roll lines and decide to go best on best. Give me Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm vs Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen and let them trade punches.

Overall: 9.7/10

Vegas Golden Knights vs San Jose Sharks

vegas vs sj

This is it. This is the one. I am a guy who normally likes to be in bed at 10pm, but this is the series that I will stay up for. Two of the last 3 Western Conference Champions and two teams that are “going for it” this year that added MONSTER pieces to their teams who were good to begin with. These teams are deep, they can score, they can defend, and I think the winner of this series will end up winning the West. Boston-Toronto gets all the publicity because of East Coast bias, but this series might be the best of them all. I can’t wait.

Star Power: 

Some of the best players in this series are still somewhat annonymous which I think is just a function of a) playing on the West coast and b) the beards getting all the headlines

thorntonbrent burns

oh and that Erik Karlsson guy

And then all of the Knights true stars are guys they just traded for this year with Paccioretty and Stone. People still aren’t familiar with Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith which is a shame because even though the Knights LOADED up with Stone-Stastny-Paccioretty acquisitions that Karlsson line is still their #1. Or maybe 1A. And that is kind of the point with these teams. They’re so deep. The other teams in the West seem to have one line that really carries the mail. The Sharks and Knights have scoring power and star power up and down and across their lineup. Every shift will be competitive. It’s going to be great hockey.

Villain Rating: 7/10

The only true blue villain in this series is Ryan Reaves

reaves

Ryan Reaves is out there to hurt people. He has that intimidation factor going, but…when you get bullied by Nate your villain rating and reputation takes a bit of a hit

This is budding rivalry in the West though. I anticipate the bad blood to be flowing early and often even if there aren’t traditional bully type guys in the series.

Buildings:

I think people are pretty familiar with the fact that Vegas has turned their pregame into a Cirque du Soleil meets Midevil Times on Ice and it’s weird, but because it’s Vegas so it just works and it’s fucking awesome

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And…San Jose is known for having one of the loudest barns in the entire league. Every time you tune into this series the crowd will be buzzing. It’s going to be great.

Styles:

Both of these teams have turned into offensive juggernauts. San Jose finished 3rd in the NHL with 3.52 goals per game and Vegas was 6th in the NHL in scoring after they traded for Mark Stone. San Jose is the team more who really really needs to make a concerted effort to stay within themselves. As great as Brent Burns is, he’s not exactly a shut down defensemen. And if the Sharks get loose and Burns and Karlsson are freelancing too much…that’s trouble for the Sharks because Martin Jones has been looking for his game all season long and hasn’t been able to find it. This series is going to be the best played series of the first round. Hockey at it’s finest in the West and if the winner isn’t dead after a long series they should go on to at least the Conference Final.

Overall: 12/10

It’s the best time of year. These first two weeks where there are four or five games per night is hockey Christmas. Enjoy it.