If you’re in the Western Conference and you think that you have a shot at making the NHL playoffs, then you’re probably right (unless you’re Colorado or Edmonton then you’re dead.).
With a little over one month left in the season only Vancouver and Detroit can breathe easy as far as the playoffs go. Seeds 3 to 8 however go to bed every night looking over their shoulders as a team below them could easily replace them tomorrow.
Take Phoenix for example. The surprising Coyotes are currently 4th in the west with home ice in round one. They’re one win away from a 3 seed, one loss away from the bottom of the draw and two losses from missing the playoffs entirely. That’s insane!
The 5-8 seeds have it just as bad. Chicago, Los Angeles, Calgary and Dallas can all be supplanted by one another in seeding tomorrow or could fall out completely if Minnesota, Nashville or Anaheim picks up wins this week.
Hell even those teams have Columbus to lookout as they sit only 4 points back of them and St. Louis is still lurking at 7 points back… WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OUT THERE?!?!
Talk about parody. The scary part is that two weeks ago one loss was the difference between 3rd and 11th place. So the conference has actually gotten a little bit clearer in terms of who has a shot at the playoffs (not really.).
Teams have sputtered (Hi, Dallas and Nashville), teams have charged hard (phoenix and Chicago), teams have remained steady and gotten better (San Jose and Anaheim) and teams just haven’t figured anything out all year but have continued to fight (L.A. and Calgary). To say that all of teams are even doesn’t do them justice. they are al similar in their shortcomings no matter if they’re in different areas.
Chicago battled injuries to Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, the Cup hangover and never did jell after the complete overhaul of players in the offseason. The trades of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg messed up the chemistry of the team and they never could get it together.
L.A.’s youth has created promise and problems as guys like Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Wayne Simmonds have all had down years after breaking out last year.
Calgary lost confidence in Mikka Kiprusoff, tried trading Jarome Iginla and couldn’t get anything from lines 2-4… then 2011 hit and everything’s working.
Dallas and Nashville cant get goals, Anaheim and Columbus cant stop them.
In other words the entire conference couldn’t pull themselves together to claim the top spots when they were ripe for the picking when Detroit had injuries in all three areas on the ice and Vancouver’s defensive unit is currently being put together with duct tape, crazy glue and a pack of ketchup.
So who has the best shot of making the playoffs of all of these teams?
ST. LOUIS BLUES, 13TH 7 POINTS BACK: MATHEMATICALLY YES, REALISTICALLY… NO.
I like the trade for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk, in fact I think they robbed Colorado blind by trading a still recovering Erik Johnson who might not be the same as he was before. Problem is after the trade they went 1-4 with all 4 losses to playoff contenders and Jaroslav Halak is still out with a bruised hand.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS, 12TH, 4 POINTS BACK: A PUNCHER’S CHANCE
21 games left, more than any other team. However 11 on the road, starting with Vancouver tonight and Steve Mason in net. Words cant describe how absolutely frustrating its been to watch him in net. When Mathieu Garon is your best option in goal its not a good sign.
(Side Note: what’s the over/under that Rick Nash pulls a Carmelo this offseason? he’s got to be sick of the constant underachieving of this team.)
ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS, 11TH, 1 POINT BACK: IF THEY MAKE IT…YOU DON’T WANT TO PLAY THEM
Bad News: Jonas Hiller is still out in net.
Good News: 11 of their last 19 are at home, Ryan Getzlaf is healthy and there is no, repeat NO LINE IN THE NHL THAT YOU WANT TO FACE THAT HAS BOBBY RYAN, COREY PERRY AND GETZLAF… PERIOD!!!
Better news: the wretched Curtis McElhinney era is over after he was released. If you saw him play then you know what I mean.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS, TIED FOR 8TH: WITH THAT DEFENSE THEY’LL MAKE IT
How would Vancouver feel if in the first round they faced the 4th best penalty kill, and 3rd best overall defense in the league? I don’t care that they can’t score goals, no one is scoring on Pekka Rinne.
MINNESOTA WILD, TIED FOR 8TH: THEORETICALLY YES, BUT DON’T BET ON IT
Unlike the Predators who cant score and it isn’t a problem, the Wild cant score but give up bad goals. Last night’s Chicago game was a prime example. As great as Nicklas Backstrom was in net his defense absolutely killed him. They allowed the Blackhawks skill players to do whatever they wanted in the second period. I was hoping Backstrom would take his stick and go Marty McSorley on his defenders.
DALLAS STARS, TIED FOR 8TH: HANGING BY A THREAD… ABOUT TO SNAP
They wont have Brad Richards any time soon, or next year for that matter and they couldn’t move him before the deadline. I wonder if that had anything to do with a 3-9 February, which could’ve been 1-11 if not for pulling two wins out of their rear at the end of the month. With Anaheim hard-charging and Nashville playing well Dallas is toast.
CALGARY FLAMES, 7TH: SHOULD BE FINE, BUT YOU NEVER KNOW
If Vancouver is not killing them then they’re killing Colorado. One minute Mikka Kiprusoff is a headache, the next he’s evoking images of 2004. One minute Jarome Iginla is the only Flame doing anything, the next Olli Jokinen, and Rene Bourque appear from nowhere. You get my drift?
LOS ANGELES KINGS, 6TH: MAYBE… POSSIBLY… HONESTLY… I DON’T KNOW
Maybe I was too premature in picking them to win the Stanley Cup. They have the talent, but it hasn’t all come together yet. Jack Johnson has been the offensive premise that Doughty was supposed to be. Anze Kopitar has put up points, but only has 20 goals. Jonathan Quick has been a stud in net, but has struggled more than the numbers let on.
It’s a team still trying to find itself and isn’t ready to contend. The acquisition of Dustin Penner will definitely help but they’re still one or two years away.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS, 5TH: IN AND MAKING A RUN
Those trades killed them up until about two weeks when they finally came together. Losing basically every key component of your title team not named Kane, Toews or Keith did more to them Rocky Wirtz could’ve imagined.
They had no oomph, no legs no identity. However, it seems as though it was a good play by Wirtz. Almost every good piece of what they lost was regained thanks to Bryan Bickell, Tomas Kopecky and Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks look like a team ready to defend their title after it took them 60 games to realize it. That my friends is bad news for anyone out west.
PHOENIX COYOTES, 4TH: A SURPRISING PLAYER FOR THE CUP
Guess what NHL team has 11 10-goal scorers, the league leader for points by a defensemen and before a recent three game slide won 8 straight, 7 against playoff teams? Yeah the Phoenix Coyotes. They’re a middle of the road defensive team, but everyone works hard and in the playoffs that takes you very far.
(by the way, name me anyone outside of hockey circles who can tell me three things about Keith Yandle. This is what ticks me off about the lack of hockey coverage by hockey outfitters in the states. Yandle is having a career year and is leading the Coyotes to another surprise run and you couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. We got the next Brian Leetch over here possibly and no one care. Gary Bettman, get the NHL back on ESPN and get it on there now!)
SAN JOSE SHARKS, 3RD: THEY’LL MAKE IT BUT DON’T EXPECT FIREWORKS
I like Logan Couture, a lot, but he’s about to fall victim to the Sharks annual postseason enigma. They’ll win the Pacific, get a three seed and hit their zenith. That’s just who the Sharks are, if it ever changes I’ll be shocked.
By the way… except for Anaheim and Chicago none of this matters. This might be the first year that the top two seeds meet in the West finals because they’re head & shoulders above the rest of the conference. I wouldn’t bet against the Sedins or Nick Lidstrom and the Swedes this year if I had money on it. However, it’s the NHL postseason, anything can happen.