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Top seeds in the West should survive

The Buffalo Sabres began the offseason Wednesday and will clean out their lockers today in HSBC Arena before heading home for the summer, but that doesn't mean hockey stops in this town. Buffalo for years has been among the leaders in television ratings, no matter the outcome of the home team.

Warm up the recliners and the remote control, folks. If the first round was an indication of what's to come in the final three rounds, the Stanley Cup playoffs could be the closest and most entertaining in recent memory.

So far, what matters most is which teams have the best survival skills.

Game Seven between Buffalo and Philadelphia was over shortly after it started, but Vancouver and Chicago needed to play deep into the night before the Canucks prevailed. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay reached the seventh game Wednesday night. Is there anything better than Boston and Montreal in a one-game showdown?

The first round of the NHL playoffs had at least one game reach overtime for eight straight days. Four of the eight series in the opening round needed a seventh game to decide the winner, including three in the Eastern Conference. Vancouver and Chicago were involved in both Tuesday night. That's entertainment.

Four of the top five seeds in the Western Conference advanced into the second round. Here's a look at those matchups while the two remaining series in the Eastern Conference concluded Wednesday.

*Vancouver (1) vs. Nashville (5)

Canucks update: They had a good scare, blowing a 3-0 series lead and allowing the tying goal, short-handed, late in Game Seven to force OT. We'll see in the second round if the Canuckleheads were scared straight. Vancouver remains the most dominant team in the postseason but needs to clean up its sloppy defense and mediocre goaltending. The Sedin twins were a combined plus-7 in their four wins over the Blackhawks, minus-13 in their three losses. Yikes. It's a good thing they're strong along their top three lines. Roberto Luongo had a 2.97 GAA and .903 save percentage and was on the bench at the start of Game Six. Did they lose their competitive edge after cruising through the season?

Predators update: Nashville knocked off Anaheim in a mild upset in the opening round for the first series win in franchise history. The Preds reached the playoffs with solid defense and goaltending and then beat the Ducks with offense. Nashville scored 22 goals in the six games and had at least three in every game. Mike Fisher led the Preds in scoring with six points in six games in the first round. Joel Ward had 10 goals all year but scored three times against Anaheim. They're going to have trouble locking down a deeper Canucks team over the course of seven games. Goaltender Pekka Rinne will need to steal at least one game if they are to have a chance.

Outlook: Vancouver learned the hard way that it must show up every night in the playoffs or it can forget about winning its first Stanley Cup. Still, the Canucks have an edge in almost every category against the Predators. Take the Canucks in six games.


*San Jose (2) vs. Detroit (3)

Sharks update: San Jose reached the second round for the sixth time in seven years. The Sharks are looking to reach the conference finals for the second straight year, and they have a chance with Joe Thornton back on his game. Jumbo Joe clinched the opening series over Los Angeles when he scored in overtime of Game Six, his biggest moment in a playoff history dotted with disappointment. San Jose goaltender Antii Niemi backstopped Chicago to the Stanley Cup last season and should be able to draw from that experience. He did not play well in the first round, posting a 3.99 GAA and an .863 save percentage against the Kings.

Red Wings update: Detroit has been sitting around since April 20 after sweeping Phoenix in the first round. The added rest should be just what the doctor ordered for an aging -- or is it experienced? -- team looking to get back into contention. Pavel Datsyuk led the way in the first round with two goals and six points in the four games. Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Ruslan Salei were a combined plus-18 in the opening round. They cruised without star forward Henrik Zetterberg, who is nursing a knee injury. Detroit still has plenty of skill and had balanced scoring in the first round. Five players scored two goals. Jimmy Howard (2.50 GAA, .915 SP) will need to play better against a Sharks team that can score goals in bunches.

Outlook: The Sharks have everything the Red Wings have -- other than a Cup, of course -- and perhaps a little more. Look for them to return to the conference finals after beating the Red Wings in six.