The NHL’s Western Conference produced plenty of great playoff story lines.
The St. Louis Blues earned the home-ice advantage for the first playoff round and another crack at toppling the Los Angeles Kings. “They’re not going to forget last year,” Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter told reporters Saturday night.
“They’re an improved team, obviously from the last time that we played them, the past regular season,” Sutter said.
The Chicago Blackhawks rolled into the postseason with the top overall seed and the Presidents’ Trophy. They had the luxury of resting key veterans Saturday night at Scottrade Center.
The Blackhawks will face the big-spending Wild, who needed to win their last game of the season to secure the eighth and final playoff slot. Minnesota reached the playoffs for the first time in five years.
“We got in the hard way,” winger Zach Parise told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “That was a big step. We can't be satisfied now.”
The Detroit Red Wings kept their playoff streak alive. Their quest for a 22nd consecutive berth came down to the final game of the season, a 3-0 victory at Dallas. They move on to play the Anaheim Ducks.
“We’re going to Disneyland,” Jimmy Howard quipped to the Detroit Free Press. “It feels great to be able to be back in the playoffs. The urgency was there. We knew what was at stake. We’ve been playing playoff hockey for a while. For us to come into the last week and get the job done was really special.
“The streak means a lot to all of us. It just says how high the bar was set before us.”
The other Western Conference series will send the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks against the sixth-seeded San Jose Sharks. The Canucks aren’t sure if top goaltender Cory Schneider will be healthy enough to play.
Veteran Roberto Luongo did a terrible job filling in for Schneider at the end of the regular season. “If Schneids is healthy he's going to play,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Saturday night. “If he's not, we have total confidence in Roberto.”
For more on the Western conference and other news and notes, check out my posting at STLToday.com.