The NHL’s Western Conference to put it nicely, is a colossal mess. Mediocre teams (Dallas, Minnesota, etc) slipping in and out of playoff contention on a daily basis while the top tier teams (Vancouver, Detroit) create some separation. I think 3 of the playoff spots have been locked up and here is my case for the other 5 teams that I think will be in the Playoffs.
Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose will be in the playoffs.
- Los Angeles Kings – This team had a terrible middle part of the year after such a hot start (most people forget that they started 12-3) in October/Early November. They have too much talent and a goaltender in Johnathan Quick who is quietly putting up a great season. They also have a very solid +24 goal differential. I put them as a darkhorse team for the playoffs.
- Chicago Blackhawks – Another team that has seem to have found their stride at the ride time and posting a solid +26 goal differential. They are the defending Stanley Cup champs and I think they are in great position to take a shot at a repeat. They shipped off Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta and let goaltender Antti Niemi be scooped up on the open market, only to have new netminder Corey Crawford step in and post a better GAA.
- Phoenix Coyotes – The team that I like the least in the bunch. Their goaltender doesn’t even crack the top 15 in GAA and hovers around the 15 spot in Save %. Their points leader is a defenseman and their leading goal scorer has 16 goals. Mediocrity at its best with their +1 goal differential. There is not a lot that is exciting about this team (beyond the great year Keith Yandle is having), no wonder people in Phoenix don’t go to the games.
- Nashville Predators – Another year for the Predators to make it into the playoffs and lose in the first round. They have a very boring dump and chase, sit back and wait till you make mistakes approach to the game and it shows in their goals scored with 156, which by the way ties them for last in the Western Conference with Edmonton. Without Pekka Rinne in net this team would be at the bottom of the heap in the West. The Preds always play well in one or two games but in a 7 game series they get worn out because they don’t score goals. They are 25th in the NHL in shots per game and that will come back to haunt them as it always does.
- Anaheim Ducks – I really like the make up of this team if they could just get their defense in line a bit. They took a giant step by getting a solid backup netminder in Dan Ellis, but I am a little worried that if the Ducks were to face a high flying team like the Canucks or Sharks, their defense would buckle. Jonas Hiller is solid in net but not amazing and the Ducks will have to get more out of Ryan Getzlaf if they plan on making a run.