Another NHL regular season is in the books. The standings are set, 14 teams have been sent packing, and the matchups have been finalized. And that means it's playoff preview time.
We'll cover the Eastern Conference tomorrow. Today, let's start off with a look at the Western Conference matchups.
#8 Minnesota Wild vs. #1 Chicago Blackhawks
meaningful Minnesota/Chicago hockey game"
The view from Minnesota: The team spent almost $200 million in free agency so Wild fans could watch a championship caliber team, and now they can for four games until the Blackhawks move on to round two.
The view from Chicago: Know that playoff success can come down to taking advantage of just a few short seconds on one single shift, which is good since that's probably all the time that Ryan Suter will be spending on the bench each game.
Player to watch: Duncan Keith, assuming he's soaping himself up in the shower and you are an impudent lady reporter, Don Cherry assumes.
#7 Detroit Red Wings vs. #2 Anaheim Ducks
The view from Detroit: The Red Wings deserve respect for their dramatic late-season playoff push, but announcing that they plan to fill their Gatorade bottles with the tears of Columbus Blue Jacket fans still seems a little over-the-top.
The view from Anaheim: Fought hard all year to climb the standings, clinch a high seed, and put themselves in the position to be the "shocking first round upset" pick in literally every postseason preview on the planet.
Player to watch: Nicklas Lidstrom, if you're one of the round-the-clock security guards hired by the other 29 NHL teams to make sure he never even thinks about coming back.
#6 San Jose vs. #3 Vancouver Canucks
the "playoff chokers club" meetings.
The view from San Jose: The front office is expecting a long playoff run that will see the team travel all around North America, the players assume, since it would explain why Doug Wilson has been so busy packing everything in Todd McLellan's office into cardboard boxes.
The view from Vancouver: Coach Alain Vigneault has reminded all his players that if they want to win they'll need to put in a full night's work every game, so one 22-second shift should pretty much cover it.
Player to watch: Cory Schneider's mysterious injury hasn't healed yet and he may be unable to start the series, said Roberto Luongo while awkwardly holding a dented folding chair behind his back.
#5 LA Kings vs. #4 St. Louis Blues
both facing in the same direction.
The view from LA: The Kings enter the series as the underdog because they're the lower seed, so they basically have no chance.
The view from St. Louis: The team has been much better ever since they realized that mysterious power switch in their dressing room that they've been randomly flicking on and off all season is actually the one that toggles Brian Elliott from "awesome" to "Brian Elliott".
Player to watch: Jay Bouwmeester, as he sits alone peeling off his equipment in the dressing room wondering where everyone else is five minutes and one second into every overtime.
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