There will be a new Stanley Cup champion crowned in June, with sixteen NHL teams battling for hockey's ultimate trophy. Get primed for the Stanley Cup playoffs with's postseason preview of each Western Conference first-round series matchup.


Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames

A pair of Canadian teams that missed the playoffs last season in this year and facing off head-to-head as the Vancouver Canucks get home-ice advantage against the Calgary Flames. The Flames are a statistically fascinating story; a team that ranked 28th in Johnny Gaudreau Jiri Hudlerthe league with 44 per cent possession, they defied the odds to get into the playoffs. They did it by scoring on 10.5 per cent of their shots (Tampa Bay was the only other team over 10.0 per cent), thanks in large part to their first line, comprised of rookie Johnny Gaudreau, second-year centre Sean Monahan and veteran winger Jiri Hudler. That line, along with defenceman Dennis Wideman, carried the Calgary attack, particularly after defenceman Mark Giordano was lost for the season.

The Flames were 2-1-1 against Vancouver this season, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that they were competitive because while puck possession is an issue for the Flames, it’s not one likely to be exploited by the Canucks, who measured around 49 percent, which ranks in the bottom third of the league. However, the Canucks are still led by the Sedins, and they control play (53 per cent to  54 per cent) when they are out there.

The goaltending (Hiller vs. Lack) may offer a slight edge to Calgary, but the Flames’ best shot at pulling the upset may be to maintain their disciplined play and hope to lure the Canucks into penalties. No team had a bigger gap (116:30) between time spent on the power play vs. time shorthanded than the Flames. – By Scott Cullen

Season Series 


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Oct. 8 VAN 4 @ CGY 2 Miller (23/25) Hiller (29/32)
Dec. 20 CGY 2 @ VAN 3 (OT) Miller (26/28) Hiller (30/32)
Jan. 10 CGY 1 @ VAN 0 Ortio (36/36) Lack (22/23)
Feb. 14 VAN 2 @ CGY 3 Ramo (28/30) Miller (31/34)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

Only three teams this year were on the wrong end of score-adjusted scoring chances at 5-on-5 this year and two of them are featured in this first-round match-up. Vancouver finished the year -108 in the scoring chance department (21st in the NHL); Calgary finished the year -357, beating out only Toronto, Colorado, and Buffalo.

Craig Button's Pick

The Canucks' penalty killing is terrific and Eddie Lack established himself as a very solid goaltender. Calgary pushes the pace and they start every game 'pedal to the medal.' These teams are close and the experience of the Canucks factors in. But in a seven-game series, the Flames play on.


Vancouver Canucks

  Projected Lineup  
Eddie Lack Alex Edler Chris Tanev
Ryan Miller Dan Hamhuis Yannick Weber
  Luca Sbisa Kevin Bieksa
  Ryan Stanton  
Daniel Sedin Henrik Sedin Alex Burrows
Chris Higgins Nick Bonino Radim Vrbata
Ronalds Kenins Bo Horvat Jannik Hansen
Shawn Matthias Linden Vey Derek Dorsett
Sven Baertschi Brad Richardson Zack Kassian

Canucks' Injuries: RW Zack Kassian, back (day-to-day), C Brad Richardson, ankle (indefinitely), LW Shawn Matthias, undisclosed (day-to-day)


Calgary Flames

  Projected Lineup  
Jonas Hiller Kris Russell Dennis Wideman
Karri Ramo T.J. Brodie Deryk Engelland
  David Schlemko Corey Potter
  Tyler Wotherspoon Raphael Diaz
Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan Jiri Hudler
Mason Raymond Mikael Backlund Joe Colborne
Michael Ferland Matt Stajan David Jones
Brandon Bollig Markus Granlund Josh Jooris
Lance Bouma Sam Bennett Drew Shore

Flames' Injuries: D Mark Giordano, biceps (out), RW Paul Byron, lower body (day-to-day), LW Lance Bouma, upper body (day-to-day), D Raphael Diaz, undisclosed


Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets are making their first playoff appearance since returning to Winnipeg and they come into the postseason as a lively underdog against the Ducks, who cruised to a Pacific Division title. The Ducks were 3-0 in head-to-head games against the Jets this season, but that included an overtime and shootout win, so it wasn’t altogether lopsided.Frederik Andersen

The Jets’ strong possession game was bolstered down the stretch with additions made at the trade deadline (Myers, Stafford, Stempniak, Tlusty) and they are a decidedly better team with Dustin Byfuglien playing defence. Big Buff could play an important role if he gets matched up against Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry - the Ducks’ top forwards who typically thrive by cycling the puck low in the offensive zone where they can outmuscle defenders. That might not be so easily accomplished against Byfuglien.

Anaheim bolstered their blueline at the deadline as well, adding James Wisniewski and Simon Despres, and their possession stats have improved since. No team spent more time shorthanded this season than the Jets, so if they are to harbour hopes for an upset, Winnipeg will either need to improve their discipline or hope that the Ducks’ 28th-ranked power play won’t make them pay. - By Scott Cullen

Season series


Dec. 7 ANA 4 @ WPG 3 (OT) Andersen (27/30) Pavelec (21/25)
Dec. 13 ANA 4 @ WPG 1 Andersen (27/28) Hutchinson (27/30)
Jan. 11 WPG 4 @ ANA 5 (SO) Andersen (28/32) Pavelec (39/43)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

From a 5-on-5 standpoint, this is probably the premier series in either conference. The Jets have a 53.8 per cent Score-Adjusted Fenwick percentage over their last 25 games, second-best of any playoff team - the Ducks, a 52.7 per cent Score-Adjusted Fenwick percentage over their last 25 games, fifth-best of any playoff team.

Craig Button's Pick

Anaheim has a tendency to get caught in their defensive zone against teams that can establish their presence. and had the fourth worst save percentage since the trade deadline. Winnipeg had the fourth best goals-against and eighth-best save percentage since the trade deadline and this became a strength of their team - not a question mark. This is the upset special as Anaheim faces a team that gives them a matchup problem. Winnipeg not only returns to the playoffs - they advance.



  Projected Lineups  
Fredrik Andersen Francois Beauchemin Hampus Lindholm
John Gibson Cam Fowler James Wisniewski
  Clayton Stoner Sami Vatanen
  Simon Despres Josh Manson
Tomas Fleischmann Ryan Getzlaf Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey Ryan Kesler Jakob Silfverberg
Kyle Palmieri Rickard Rakell Andrew Cogliano
Patrick Maroon Nate Thompson Emerson Etem
Jiri Sekac Chris Wagner Tim Jackman

Ducks Injuries: G John Gibson, upper body (day-to-day)


Winnipeg Jets

Ondrej Pavelec Tobias Enstrom Tyler Myers
Michael Hutchinson Ben Chiarot Dustin Byfuglien
  Mark Stuart Jacob Trouba
  Adam Pardy Jay Harrison
Andrew Ladd Bryan Little Michael Frolik
Drew Stafford Mark Scheifele Blake Wheeler
Matt Halischuk Adam Lowry Lee Stempniak
Jiri Tlusty Jim Slater Chris Thorburn
Mathieu Perreault Eric O'Dell T.J. Galiardi

Jets Injuries: LW Mathieu Perreault, lower body (day-to-day), D Paul Postma, lower body (day-to-day)


St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild

The Blues and Wild meet in a series that may have the highest stakes – both teams expect to be Stanley Cup contenders and whichever team wins the series could reach that goal, but the team that doesn’t? Well, that makes for a long summer. In any case, the Blues and Wild split the season series 2-2, with the Blues taking a shootout win in their first meeting. Both are above average possession teams, but they are trending in opposite directions, with the Blues five percent better (53.4 per cent to 48.4 per cent) in score-adjusted possession than the Wild over the last 20 games of the season.Devyn Dubnyk

When healthy, the Blues have a deep lineup, with more skill up front than in years’ past, which makes for an interesting matchup against a Wild team that also has solid top-to-bottom roster depth. St. Louis’ fourth-ranked power play going against Minnesota’s top-ranked penalty killing will be a riveting matchup. The Wild’s season was effectively saved when they acquired Devan Dubnyk from Arizona; he played great, and a lot (posting a .936 save percentage in 39 games), for Minnesota, so he will remain a crucial part of Minnesota’s playoff hopes.

In St. Louis, the goaltending situation is less certain. Brian Elliott has a longer track record, but Jake Allen is pushing for more time in net, posting a .930 save percentage after the All-Star break. If the Blues can find at least one serviceable goaltender, they could be Cup contenders, or at least get by the Wild in Round One. – By Scott Cullen 

Season Series


Nov. 29 STL 3 @ MIN 2 (SO) Allen (36/38) Backstrom (24/26)
Mar. 14 MIN 3 @ STL 1 Dubnyk (41/42) Elliott (16/19)
Mar. 21 STL 3 @ MIN 6 Dubnyk (26/29) Elliott (12/16)
Apr. 11 MIN 2 @ STL 4 Elliott (23/25) Dubnyk (11/14)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

This is the only first-round match-up where two teams finished inside of the Top 10 as it pertained to even-strength shooting percentage. The Wild finished sixth in the league at 8.51 per cent, whereas the Blues finished eighth in the league at 8.19 percent. If either team was hoping for something of a shot quality advantage, they likely won't see it materialize here.

Craig Button's Pick

St. Louis is Top 5 in goals for, goals against, power play, and they're just outside at eighth in penalty killing. They have scoring balance throughout their lineup and Tarasenko gives them their biggest one shot threat since Brett Hull. Devan Dubnyk should get consideration as MVP as his play was nothing short of brilliant. Both teams play so well, but this comes down to who has the better offence and the Blues get the nod.

St. Louis Blues

  Projected Lineup  
Jake Allen Carl Gunnarsson Alex Pietrangelo
Brian Elliott Jay Bouwmeester Zbynek Michalek
  Barrett Jackman Kevin Shattenkirk
  Robert Bortuzzo Chris Butler
Jaden Schwartz Paul Stastny T.J. Oshie
Alexander Steen Jori Lehtera Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin David Backes Patrik Berglund
Steve Ott Marcel Goc Ryan Reaves
Chris Porter Olli Jokinen Ty Rattie

Blues' Injuries: None


Minnesota Wild

  Projected Lineup  
Devan Dubnyk Ryan Suter Jonas Brodin
Darcy Kuemper Marco Scandella Jared Spurgeon
  Jordan Leopold Matt Dumba
  Christian Folin Nate Prosser
Zach Parise Mikael Granlund Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker Mikko Koivu Chris Stewart
Thomas Vanek Charlie Coyle Nino Niederreiter
Matt Cooke Kyle Brodziak Justin Fontaine
Sean Bergenheim Erik Haula Ryan Carter
    Jordan Schroeder

Wild Injuries: D Keith Ballard, concussion (IR)


Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The window of opportunity may soon be closing for a Blackhawks team that has two Stanley Cup wins and two more Western Conference Final appearances in the past six years, but it remains open this year for a veteran team loaded with playoff experience, though it has run into scoring trouble in the second half of the season. Chicago’s odds will be enhanced if they can get star right winger Patrick Kane back in the lineup; he hasn’t played since suffering a broken collarbone on Feb. 24.Jonathan Toews and Johan Larsson

The Blackhawks were 3-1 against Nashville this season but that included an overtime and a shootout win, so there isn’t a great difference between them in head-to-head matchups though, to be fair, none of those games happened in 2015. The Blackhawks are still a top possession team, though declining late in the season, because they can still generate shots at an elite level, but they have slipped some defensively.

The Predators have also been an above average possession team under new head coach Peter Laviolette, but if they are going to knock off the Blackhawks, they will need to sustain more offensively. It will be one thing if top defence pair of Roman Josi and Shea Weber can handle a matchup against Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, but another entirely for Nashville’s top forwards (Forsberg, Ribiero, Neal) to exploit any deterioration in Chicago’s defensive play. – By Scott Cullen

Season Series



Oct. 18 NAS 1 @ CHI 2 (OT) Crawford (19/20) Hutton (35/37)
Oct. 23 CHI 2 @ NAS 3 Rinne (30/32) Raanta (24/27)
Dec. 6 CHI 3 @ NAS 1 Darling (32/33) Rinne (28/30)
Dec. 29 NAS 4 @ CHI 5 (SO) Crawford (36/40) Rinne (38/42)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

Chicago and Nashville had one commonality this year - spending significantly more time on the power play than the penalty kill this season. The Blackhawks (third in NHL) had 92:13 minutes of special teams advantage, and the Predators (fifth in NHL) had 66:23 minutes of special teams advantage.

Craig Button's Pick

Nashville had a terrific first half of the season and a very pedestrian second half. But with Pekka Rinne and a strong defence, they can be formidable if they can find their first half form. Chicago hasn't lit up the scoreboard since the All-Star break and having Patrick Kane back early will be a much-needed boost. They will also need offensive production from Antoine Vermette. In the end, the Hawks win because of better play down the stretch and more proven performers come playoff time.


Chicago Blackhawks

  Projected Lineup  
Corey Crawford Duncan Keith Niklas Hjalmarsson
Scott Darling Johnny Oduya Brent Seabrook
  David Rundblad Michal Rozsival
  Kimmo Timonen  
Kris Versteeg Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa
Antoine Vermette Brad Richards Patrick Sharp
Brandon Saad Andrew Shaw Bryan Bickell
Tuevo Teravainen Marcus Kruger Andrew Desjardins
  Joakim Nordstrom Patrick Kane

Blackhawks' Injuries: D Kimmo Timonen, upper body (day-to-day)


Nashville Predators

  Projected Lineup  
Pekka Rinne Roman Josi Shea Weber
Carter Hutton Mattias Ekholm Seth Jones
  Ryan Ellis Cody Franson
  Victor Bartley Anton Volchenkov
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro James Neal
Colin Wilson Mike Fisher Craig Smith
Matt Cullen Calle Jarnkrok Viktor Stalberg
Gabriel Bourque Paul Gaustad Taylor Beck
Eric Nystrom   Mike Santorelli

Predators' Injuries: LW Eric Nystrom, lower body (day-to-day), D Cody Franson, upper body (day-to-day)