WHL PLAYOFFS: Nick’s picks

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Kelowna (No. 2 seed)

vs. Seattle (7)

Synopsis: Kelowna would seem to be the runaway favorite, having finished 50 points ahead of Seattle in the standings and winning three of the four regular-season meetings. But the T-birds played Kelowna tough in their head-to-head matchups, and it was revealed this week that Kelowna captain Colton Sissons will miss the playoffs because of injury. Seattle could make this one interesting. Prediction: Kelowna in six.

Kamloops (3) vs. Victoria (6)

Synopsis: Kamloops, which was atop the league standings much of the first half, cooled down in the second half and had to settle for the third seed. That would seem to create an opening for the Royals. But if Kelowna cooled off, Victoria went into a deep freeze, losing 14 of its final 17, and the Royals are dealing with injuries to key personnel. Prediction: Kamloops in four.

Spokane (4) vs. Tri-City (5)

Synopsis: Spokane and Tri-City were nearly dead even in the standings, with home-ice going down to the final weekend of the regular season. However, the teams arrived at that place in the standings from different directions. The Chiefs were on the rise and the Americans on the decline. Spokane controlled the head-to-head games late in the season and Tri-City is still dealing with goaltending issues. Prediction: Spokane in five.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Edmonton (1) vs. Kootenay (8)

Synopsis: This is about as interesting as a series between a No. 1 seed and a No. 8 seed gets. Kootenay, which at one point had the league’s worst record, went wild in the second half to earn a playoff spot, and the Ice split the season series with Edmonton 3-3. However, Edmonton has a substantial edge in talent and the Oil Kings can draw upon the experience of winning the league title last season. Prediction: Edmonton in five.

Saskatoon (2) vs. Medicine Hat (7)

Synopsis: Saskatoon, this year’s Memorial Cup host, made a dramatic turnaround in the second half of the season, and the Blades finally look like a legitimate cup contender. Medicine Hat has a winning tradition behind it, having made the playoffs 11 straight years. However, Saskatoon swept the season series 4-0. Saskatoon has too much experience for the Tigers to overcome. Prediction: Saskatoon in five.

Calgary (3) vs. Swift Current (6)

Synopsis: Swift Current returns to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus, and the Broncos had success against Calgary this season, winning three of four. Swift Current has the players to give Calgary a run, but the Broncos are novices when it comes to playoff intensity. Prediction: Calgary in six.

Red Deer (4) vs. Prince Albert (5)

Synopsis: Prince Albert, like Swift Current, is new to the playoff scene, having earned a postseason berth just once in the previous five seasons. Red Deer is also back in the playoffs after missing out last season. Both teams won twice against the other during the regular season, and both teams have quality goaltending. Should be a hard-fought series. Prediction: Prince Albert in seven.

Nick Patterson covers the Everett Silvertips for The Herald. Read his blog at www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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