The playoff format has changed in the NHL, which means the draws are different. There’s no more re-seeding after each round where the top surviving team faces the lowest remaining squad. Instead, this is like the NBA format where the bracket is set and the matchups are already known.
That being the case, let’s have a look at the Western Conference draw and see which teams have the easiest and toughest paths to the title. For some, the journey to Lord Stanley’s mug should be much easier than for others.
Easiest Draw: St.
The Blues come into the playoffs slumping but if they can snap out of it, they’ll realize they have a clear path to the Western Conference final. It starts with the Chicago Blackhawks, who have been a sub-.500 team in 2014 (18-22). They’ve beaten the Blackhawks in four of the last six meetings. Then they’ll face Colorado or Minnesota, but likely Colorado. The Blues should have a huge edge in experience in that series. Lastly, they’ll face the survivor from the top half of the bracket, which could be either San Jose, Los Angeles or Anaheim. The good news is they won’t have to go through all three of those teams; just one.
This is a good draw for the Blues. It’s just a matter of if they can take advantage of it considering how they slumped to end the season with their six-game losing streak.
Toughest Draw: Los
The Kings don’t have it easy as they’ll have to run the gauntlet if they’re to return to the Stanley Cup finals. It’ll start with San Jose, who has the best home-ice advantage in the Western Conference (29-7-5). If they can pull the upset, they’ll likely have to fight the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks in Round 2. And if they triumph there, they are likely to have either Colorado, Chicago or St. Louis waiting for them. If the Kings are to win the West, they’ll deserve. By beating all of those teams, that means they’ll have to find ways to top three squads that finished with at least 107 points in the standings without the assistance of home-ice advantage. They’re capable and they’ve done it before, but this is one heck of a tough draw for them.
Matchup To Keep An
Eye Out For: Anaheim-San Jose
The Sharks have a tough first-round matchup to deal with as they square off with the Los Angeles Kings but should they advance, there’s a good chance they can upset the top seed in the West. The Sharks have beaten the Ducks in five of the last seven meetings. San Jose doesn’t have great playoff pedigree but the Ducks – even though they are the No. 1 seed in the West – are one of the few teams with less of a track record. Don’t be surprised if San Jose gets by the Ducks if they meet in the second round.