The fight to get out of the Western Conference and into the Stanley Cup finals is a long and treacherous one. At the conclusion of the conference series comes one of the most awkward trophy presentations in all of sports. The winner of the Western Conference receives the Clarence Campbell Bowl but it’s bad luck to touch it so everybody just kinds of hovers near the bowl in a weird photo shoot. This year, the NHL entertained thoughts of changing the name to the Luther Campbell Bowl in honor of 2 Live Crew but I guess better judgement prevailed. Here are the series breakdowns to see who goes on to win this Clarence Thomas Bowl after all.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings
The Canucks won this year’s President’s Cup for having the best record in the NHL. That being said, they don’t instill a lot of confidence from the experts who have predicted anywhere from a Game 7 win by Vancouver to an outright win by the Kings. There are a few things going in L.A.’s favor — their goaltender Quick is one of the best in the game and Sedin might not be playing for the Canucks. Even with all the doubt surrounding Vancouver and the always shaky Roberto Luongo, Vegas has them pegged as 2 : 1 favorites to win the Western Conference. Personally, I like the Kings in this situation at +185 as Vancouver at -225 does not offer much value.
St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are 2 time conference finalists but all that means in the oddsmakers eyes is that they know how to disappoint. After a roller coaster season, the Sharks have turned it around somewhat late but the Blues have owned them this year. The Blues were 4-0-0 at home vs. the Sharks this season and San Jose didn’t even score 1 goal at St. Louis. There’s actually pretty good value in taking St. Louis at a respectable -165 for the series. If they finish them off early, they should be fully rested which would make the 3 : 1 conference odds even better. I like St. Louis in 5.
Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Much like the Eastern Conference matchup of #3 seeded Florida vs. #6 New Jersey, #3 Phoenix is favored in seed only. The Blackhawks are -130 to win this series compared to the Coyotes at +110. Chicago’s captain Johnathon Toews might return from a concussion for this series and a decent core group remains from Chicago’s Stanley Cup season of a couple years ago. That being said, Chicago has had goaltending issues all season and only had 4 more points than Phoenix this year, albeit in a tougher conference. I think this series goes 7 with Chicago’s stars (Hossa, Kane) being the difference in the deciding game.
Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings
Vegas has listed this as a true pick with both teams being -110 to win. To the hockey layman, this series would be a no-brainer pick for Detroit who is making their 21st straight playoff appearance. If the Red Wings had home ice advantage, perhaps the odds would be Detroit -165 as their record at Joe Louis Arena was 31-7-3 this season. As it stands, Nashville has the advantage and those country bumpkins love their hockey. I think Nashville’s tough defense and goaltending, paired with home ice leads to a series win at -110.
Put the razors away and grab a Molson Ice because this year’s hockey playoffs have no shortage of story lines. It should be fun!