On the Ice: Western Conference Playoff Race
The Eastern Conference is accompanied by less surprise because the top eight teams are the right teams. We cannot say this about the Western Conference.
This season has been a very unusual year in the West. Teams expected to be great are noticeably underachieving and teams who were projected candidates for top draft picks are unexpectedly overachieving.
Perennial Stanley Cup contenders like the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are in danger of missing the playoffs.
These are the current standings:
Anaheim Ducks (42-17-7) 91 points
Nashville Predators (41-18-7) 89 points
St. Louis Blues (40-19-5) 85 points
Chicago Blackhawks (38-21-5) 81 points
Minnesota Wild (35-22-7) 77 points
Winnipeg Jets (32-21-12) 76 points
Vancouver Canucks (36-24-3) 75 points
Calgary Flames (35-25-4) 74 points
Los Angeles Kings (30-21-12)
San Jose Sharks (32-25-8) with 72 points
Dallas Stars (29-26-10) 68 points
Colorado Avalanche (28-25-11) 67 points.
The Anaheim Ducks are leading the NHL with 91 points while currently holding the best record. The Ducks have been consistent all season while playing a handful of games without dominant goal scorer Corey Perry. Lead by their captain Ryan Getzlaf and the acquisition of Ryan Kesler, they have helped carry the Ducks in Perry’s absence. Since Perry’s been back in the lineup, they are surging and can potentially clinch the number one seed.
Right behind them are the surprising Nashville Predators. Lead by arguably the best goalie this year Pekka Rinne and top defenseman Shea Weber, the Predators find themselves only two points out of first place. With the acquisition of James Neal, who was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins, they now have a legitimate goal scorer and his presence has helped the Predators in the win/lose column this year.
The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks are exactly where they should be. Both teams have been plagued with injuries, so being in the top four is a relief. The Blues have dealt with injuries to multiple star players like T.J Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny while the Blackhawks have endured the same, with stars like Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. These teams will make the playoffs, but who has suffered a more devastating loss in terms of player production impact. Cohesion is needed and the amount of time they’ve been on the ice together will have an effect.
After those two teams, this is where the playoff race gets very interesting.
The Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames currently hold playoff positions, but the more experienced Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are in their rear view.
The Wild and Canucks are veteran led recurrent playoff teams so it’s unlikely they won’t make it. Winnipeg, who traded away star winger Evander Kane, and a young Calgary team are more likely to swap places with the Kings and Sharks.
Dallas and Colorado are dark horse sleepers for the bottom spots. The way this season has proceeded anything can happen, so they are not out of contention.
These last 20 games gives NHL fans a playoff race for the ages. Every game now matters for teams and a win or lose can shift you as high as five or as low as 12.
From veteran cup contenders to young emerging teams, this last stretch of the season will be filled with electrifying playoff-like intensity.
The playoffs technically start after the last game of the season on April 11th, but if you’re asking any of these Western Conference teams, then the playoffs have already begun.