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NHL playoffs preview: Western Conference second round

Will Jonas Hiller stabilize things in net for the Ducks?
Will Jonas Hiller stabilize things in net for the Ducks?
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I took a look at the second round series in the Eastern Conference earlier, and now I turn my attention to the Western Conference. The one real upset in round one happened out West, which is probably going to lead to a less than exciting round two series, but the other series should more than make up for it. We've got the Chicago Blackhawks against the Minnesota Wild and the Anaheim Ducks versus the Los Angeles Kings. Here's a closer look at these two series.

Chicago Blackhawks v. Minnesota Wild: The Wild upset the Colorado Avalanche in seven games, and that's cool, but Colorado was also a team with puck possession questions and key injuries. That's not to say they didn't have guys play well. Zach Parise is tied for the postseason lead in points with 10, and let up never disregard Ryan Suter on the blueline. This is a solid team, but they are also a team that had a plus-1 goal differential during the regular season, and that has questions in goal, especially since Darcy Kuemper left their last game with an injury.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are the defending champs, and they bested the St. Louis Blues in six games, and the Blues are better than the Avalanche. They did this despite Brent Seabrook missing three games due to a suspension. The talent levels on these teams is not really all that close. Chicago is clearly better and more talented at every position, including on defense. Plus, Corey Crawford played well in round one, and he's the only person you can even try and consider a weak link, and that's a stretch.

I would have picked any other playoff team but Minnesota to beat Colorado in round one, but the Wild did pull off the upset. Their run ends here, though. This is the big time. They aren't quite ready yet. Blackhawks in five

Anaheim Ducks v. Los Angeles Kings: Southern California, rejoice! It's like that game they had outside, but indoors. Both of these teams had tough first round series, especially the Kings. They had to overcome a three games to none hole they dug themselves. Still, they managed to beat the Sharks, who are a very good team. The Stars are solid too, and they gave the Ducks a run for their money.

Anaheim had some questions in net in round one. Fredrik Andersen started all their games, but Jonas Hiller came in to relieve him twice, and did not let in a single goal. He'll likely start this series. Speaking of netminders, Jonathan Quick got off to slow start against San Jose, but he finished the first round with a .914 save percentage. Plus, Anze Kopitar had 10 points, so he's going strong. The Kings are known for their defensive play, but they have offensive talent. They can score when need be.

The Ducks are Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and the rest, but there is enough talent in their depth for a guy or two to come up big for one game. If Hiller stabilizes things in net, then the Ducks could be on their way to the Cup Final.

This is a very close matchup. A coin flip, as it were. The Kings are, overall, probably a bit better, and I do have minor questions about Hiller in net, presuming he gets the start for the series. The Ducks had the better regular season, but right now, I am leaning toward Los Angeles. Kings in seven.

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