San Jose Sharks v Vancouver Canucks

PHT Predicts the Western Conference finals

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For the second year in a row, the Western Conference finals features the top two seeded teams and once against the San Jose Sharks are one of those two teams. This time around they come in as the second seed up against the first seed and Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks.

The star power in this series is off the charts with Roberto Luongo, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Ryan Kesler leading the way for the Canucks against the Sharks’ power of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Dan Boyle. Vancouver won the season series between these two teams going 3-0-1 and winning one of those in the shootout. What’s our take on things? Well we’ve got a lot to say.

James says:

Much like the Lightning-Bruins series, these two teams made it to the conference finals in remarkably similar ways. The Canucks and Sharks played in 13 games in which their intestinal fortitude came into question, particularly in nearly “blowing” 3-0 series leads. Yet all the knee-jerk negativity overshadows the strong possibility that they’re the two best teams in the NHL. Choosing a winner is a daunting task.

Simply put, both sides haven’t dealt with anything like each other. The Canucks are a more complete (and mean-spirited) team than the Kings and Red Wings. The Sharks are deeper than the Blackhawks and far more dangerous than the Predators.

With almost a week off, the Sedin twins will be as close to 100 percent health as they can reasonably be in the playoffs. I’m concerned that Henrik Sedin has been playing outright injured, but either way, I think those dynamic duplicates will produce at a higher rate in Round 3. To some extent, it will just be the law of averages correcting itself. Yet one cannot ignore the tough matchups the ginger twins faced in the previous two rounds. I think they’ll get more room against San Jose.

That being said, the law of averages may frown upon Ryan Kesler a bit. That’s not to say he won’t play well; my guess is just that he won’t be able to beat the Sharks on his own like he seemingly did against the Predators. The Sharks offense is astoundingly dangerous, with the usual suspects Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley emboldened by the secondary help provided by Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi. That stupefying Sharks attack is – in my opinion – the best reason to pick San Jose.

The Canucks lack a signature blueline superstar but might have the deepest top-to-bottom group in the NHL. I think that will be helpful against the pick-your-poison Sharks. Meanwhile, the Sharks clearly boast the best defenseman of either team in Dan Boyle, a remarkably efficient one in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and a terrifying hitter in Douglas Murray, but things get a bit shaky after that. The goalie matchup is very close, as Antti Niemi’s unflappable nature fits the star-crossed Sharks perfectly while people forget that Roberto Luongo remains one of the best netminders in the NHL. Far too much focus revolves around a few flukey goals when the fact of the matter is that Bobby Lou has allowed little else since Game 6 against Chicago.

There’s a lot of moving parts here, but ultimately, I’ll just go with the answer that’s on the tip of my tongue.

Vancouver wins it in 7.

Joe says:

This will be a fascinating series. The two most skilled teams in the West and two teams that are itching to win their first Stanley Cup. Vancouver hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup finals since 1994 and San Jose has never made it that far before. There’s a lot at stake for both teams and I have no doubts that these two are going to be bringing it as crazy as they did during the regular season. Expect things to be fast-paced and a lot of “choker” labels will disappear here as this is a series both teams have been dying to be in for a long time.

If you’ve been waiting for the time when the Sedins would show up, given how they performed against the Sharks this season this could be it. Of course, Ryane Clowe has had some huge games against the Canucks this season as well and he’s been on fire in the playoffs. In the end, this boils down to which way the goaltending falls and Roberto Luongo has been out of his mind good. Not that Antti Niemi has been bad, both guys had rough first rounds, but I look at it playing out the way the Sharks series with Detroit went. There, Jimmy Howard was great but couldn’t quite match up to Niemi. This time Niemi will be good, but not on the same level as Luongo.

Vancouver in 6.

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 12: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Jay Bouwmeester #19 and Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues during the season opening game at the United Center on October 12, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues will look to improve their cushion in the Western Conference playoff race when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

NHL On NBCSN: Blues look to slow down Blackhawks

Blues extend Berglund — five years, $19.25 million

Blackhawks’ Hjalmarsson ‘day-to-day,’ will not play on Sunday

BREAKING: Ben Bishop reportedly traded to L.A. Kings

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tends net against the New York Islanders during the second period at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The L.A. Kings have reportedly acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That is according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie and TSN on Sunday.

The news comes one day after Jonathan Quick returned to the Kings crease after a 59-game absence due to a groin injury and was solid in a winning effort versus the Anaheim Ducks.

The Kings are three points out of the final wild card spot in the West.

More to come.

Video: More evidence Connor McDavid is really good at hockey

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Connor McDavid once again had that blazing speed of his on display. The latest victims? The Nashville Predators on Sunday.

The sophomore star scored his 21st goal of the season and league-leading 70th point thanks to a beautiful individual effort, putting his Oilers back into a tie game at the time.

McDavid picked up the puck just outside his blue line, accelerated to beat Roman Josi in the neutral zone, beat Ryan Ellis with a move and immediately snapped his shot home for the goal.

Two more Canucks players showing symptoms of the mumps

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 11: Ben Hutton #27 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at TD Garden on February 11, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Canucks 4-3. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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There was good news and bad news for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, as the club deals with an outbreak of the mumps.

First, the bad news: Head coach Willie Desjardins confirmed that forward Anton Rodin, defenseman Ben Hutton and trainer Brian Hamilton are now experiencing symptoms of the mumps.

Initially, five players — Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — had been affected.

The good news? Stecher, who had the first confirmed case of the mumps, was back on the ice Sunday for an optional practice, per the Canucks.

The Canucks, nine points out of a playoff spot in the West, host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

The following day is the trade deadline, and the Canucks could be busy, with at least three players — Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller — all mentioned as possible targets for other teams.

Speaking to TSN 1040 radio on Friday, GM Jim Benning didn’t believe the mumps outbreak would impact his plans leading up to the deadline.