Saturday presented a range of emotions for Western Conference fans, who went from crossing their fingers for preferable seeding to pondering all the ways two teams will exploit each others’ weaknesses.
Here are the four quarterfinal matchups in the West in 2013:
1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8) Minnesota Wild
The Blackhawks haven’t played against a Minnesota team in the postseason since the North Stars knocked them out 4-2 in 1991. (Click here for a little more on this series.)
2) Anaheim Ducks vs. 7) Detroit Red Wings
As former Ducks blogger Earl Sleek points out, the two teams have had a quirky tendency to meet in odd playoff years. They’ve met in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2009 and now 2013. In fact, Mike Babcock once coached a lower-seed Anaheim team against a favored Red Wings squad and now finds himself in the opposite situation.
3) Vancouver Canucks vs. 6) San Jose Sharks
The last time these two teams faced off, the Canucks beat the Sharks 4-1 in the 2011 Western Conference finals. You may recall the bizarre Kevin Bieksa goal that ended that series in OT.
4) St. Louis Blues vs. 5) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings might go into this series as the favorites despite the lower seed. They swept the Blues in the two teams’ 2012 playoff series and swept this season’s three games to boot (winning by at least two goals in every contest in 2013).
This hasn’t been the best night for St. Louis sports fans.
Obviously, the MLB’s Cardinals getting bounced from the playoffs is a bigger deal, but the Blues face bad news, too.
While they’re currently leading the Calgary Flames by a score of 4-3, they’ll need to hang on without Kevin Shattenkirk, whose night is over thanks to a lower-body injury.
There’s no word yet on how severe the issue might be.
Naturally, the Blues must hope that it’s minor, as Shattenkirk is one of the NHL’s truly underrated assets on the blueline.
Stephanie (@MyRegularFace) tracked down a moment when the injury may have happened:
It’s not all rosy for the Flames, either, as Lance Bouma suffered an injury as well.
In some ways, it really felt like their first-round series.
For all the talent on both ends of the rink with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, each squad can really smother opponents defensively when things go that way.
Through two periods, the two teams were very quiet. Things really picked up when Justin Abdelkader unleashed a big hit, a moment that injected enough life into the proceedings for the Red Wings to eventually build a 3-1 win.
Maybe they’re slipping under the radar a bit compared to previous iterations of the team, but it’s interesting that the Red Wings are now undefeated in three games.
They’ve been impressive at times, too, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 11-4.
Call it a refreshing time after Mike Babcock or merely carryover from a subtly solid run last season, but either way, the Red Wings may just be able to keep up their end of a brewing rivalry.