Predicting the NHL Western Conference Playoff Bracket


Feb 5, 2024

The puck is about to drop on the unofficial second half of the NHL season. The All-Star Break is in the rearview mirror, and teams are entirely focused on making a Stanley Cup Playoff run. But with only eight spots up for grabs in the Western Conference, only half the squads will make it. 

This is what we’re predicting for a Western Conference playoff bracket. 

Vancouver Canucks (Pacific #1) vs. Seattle Kraken (Wild Card #2)
Odds to Win the Stanley Cup: Canucks +1400, Kraken +8500

After years of failing to live up to expectations, the Vancouver Canucks finally claim their first division banner since the 2012-13 season. Moreover, they are rewarded for their efforts with the top seed in the conference and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. 

We’re also predicting an upset among the wild card teams. As it stands, the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues occupy those spots, but the Seattle Kraken could cause a tsunami in the standings. The Kraken are 11-5-1 since December 20, making up a lot of ground on teams they are chasing. There’s no stopping them now as they carry that momentum into February.

This is the type of natural rivalry the NHL was hoping for when it granted Seattle an expansion team. These teams mucking it up in a seven-game playoff series would be the type of entertainment that will keep blood boiling until next season.

Edmonton Oilers (Pacific #2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific #3)
Odds to Win the Stanley Cup: Oilers +850, Golden Knights +1400

Two heavyweights will stand toe-to-toe in the opening round as the Edmonton Oilers host the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs. 

Winners of 16 in a row, Edmonton’s slow start is a distant memory. Now, they sit just five points back of the Golden Knights, with five games in hand. A condensed schedule could slow the Oilers down, but they have plenty of runway to catch Vegas in the standings. 

Home ice will make all the difference as the Oilers look to dethrone the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.

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Winnipeg Jets (Central #1) vs. Nashville Predators (Wild Card #1)
Odds to Win the Stanley Cup: Jets +1500, Predators +6500

This series would necessitate two upsets. First, the Winnipeg Jets would need to catch the frontrunners in the Central Division, winning their first division banner since they were the Atlanta Thrashers. Second, the Nashville Predators must usurp the Kings and Blues for a wild-card berth. Still, we’re betting both will happen. 

The Jets have finally maximized their output. It starts with Connor Hellebuyck in the blue paint, but Winnipeg is finally getting production from top to bottom. The Preds play a similar game, with Juuse Saros laying the foundation for their success. 

If these franchises meet in the first round as expected, goaltending will be on full display. The first team to four goals advances to the next round.

Colorado Avalanche (Central #2) vs. Dallas Stars (Central #3)
Odds to Win the Stanley Cup: Avalanche +850, Stars +1200

The Colorado Avalanche are not a competent playoff team. You can point to the 2021-22 Stanley Cup all you want, but that’s the anomaly in this history. Colorado has made the playoffs in 12 of the past 20 seasons. Only once over that stretch have they made it past the second round of the playoffs. Still, the Avs regular season success continues to afford them all of the advantages they could hope for, and they blow it year after year.

The Dallas Stars may as well start planning their hotels in Winnipeg. I hear it’s lovely there in May.

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On the Cusp But Missing Out

Los Angeles Kings (+2000)

The Los Angeles Kings are spiraling, but cutting ties with Todd McLellan wasn’t the answer. GM Rob Blake sent McLellan packing despite him making the most of his underwhelming roster with solid analytics. The coaching firing will reveal the Kings’ shortcomings for what they are: an ineffective GM who is incapable of building a competitive roster.

Calgary Flames (+10000)

The Calgary Flames have already signaled their intention of building for future years. The team traded away Elias Lindholm ahead of the All-Star Break, bringing in prospects and picks as the primary return. Calgary is now in full sell mode as it looks to rid itself of some signings that haven’t panned out as hoped.

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Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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