The Stanley Cup Chase Begins: Western Conference

Published on 13-Apr-2016 by Chips 10

NHL    NHL Daily Update

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The Stanley Cup Chase Begins: Western Conference

In five of the last six seasons, either the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks have come out of the West to play for and win the Stanley Cup.

While it could happen again this season, other serious challengers on the continent's left side have a chance to play for the best trophy in sports.

As strong a chance as the reigning power have seen in recent times, in fact.

The Dallas Stars are the top seed entering the playoffs and will host the Minnesota Wild in Round 1.

The Stars need second-leading scorer Tyler Seguin back from injury, because the Wild -- led by Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise -- are a very dangerous eight seed.

The Anheim Ducks clinched their fourth straight Pacific Division title on the final day of the season and now hope to advance to the finals after falling one game short in 2015.

The Ducks have a tough opening round opponent in the Nashville Predators and their part of Finland's world-class goalies, Pekka Rinne. Anaheim will counter with Frederik Andersen and John Gibson as the Ducks hope to win one more game than they did last season.

The Kings will open the playoffs against the San José Sharks.

The last time they met in the playoffs, the Chomp Squad blew a 3-0 series lead and the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick is playing for his third Cup ring, and San José, which has underachieved in the playoffs before, had a better year than expected.

The Sharks has two wonderful centers in Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but each of them must produce in the playoffs more than they have before.

The defending champion Blackhawks open up with St Louis in what could be a long series.

The Blues have the home advantage but have fallen short the past couple years. Both goalies Jake Allen and Brian Elliott had good seasons and must step up even more to defeat Chicago.  Goalie Corey Crawford has been injured but is close to coming back.

Patrick Kane had 106 points and led the league in goals. If Crawford is healthy and Kane remains hot, the Blackhawks will always be one of the favorites.