The second installment of a two-part series, here are the predictions of Western Conference teams to make the playoffs.
The toughest division in the Western Conference and quite possibly the league, currently four of the five teams are holding down a playoff spot. Only three of those teams will be making the playoffs, leaving the slumping Chicago Blackhawks to miss the mark.
The Detroit Red Wings are breaking records at home and playing solid hockey. Currently leading the Western Conference by a slim margin of 2 points and a game up, the Wings need to focus on winning the division to set themselves up for the playoffs. A simple fact, home ice advantage will be deadly.
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock has his boys playing darn good hockey. It is nice to see the St. Louis Blues play well again. Going 6-3-1 in their last ten games and now adding some healthy names back to the roster, the Blues have a playoff spot locked down.
The only news coming from the Columbus Blue Jackets is the potential willingness to trade superstar Rick Nash. Everyone knows trade deadline is for depth players, not superstars, to avoid messing with chemistry going into the playoffs. Yet, if you’re the Montreal Canadiens looking to wholesale your team since you’re not in the playoffs, now might be a time to make a move. Then again, can you really believe any rumors that Nash is willing to play in Montreal? Like I said, the only thing being talked about in Columbus is the possible trade of Nash; the team is definitely out of the playoffs. Insert evil Ken Hitchcock laugh here.
No neck Barry Trotz is a superb Head Coach for the Nashville Predators who always has a competitive team. You never really hear much about them in the media but they are always winning. Last year the boys made it past the first round for the very first time; hopefully they can do the same this year. Netminder Pekka Rinne is playing superb and will be the backbone of the team. Easy slot for the playoffs.
Uh-oh Spaghetti O’s. The Chicago Blackhawks have gone 1-8-1 in their last 10 games and the free fall does not seem to have an end in sight. Goalie woes are upon them, perhaps a Ray Emery curse. Holding onto 6th spot in the conference, finger by finger begins to slip into the depths of the summertime golf swing. Insert “Chicago Sucks” chant here.
Early on this division had promise, but much like the tortoise and the hare, the teams eventually lost the race. Only Vancouver is of playoff caliber, the rest, back to the drawing board.
Vancouver Canucks are a solid team once again. Playoff bound without a doubt, just like more riots when they lose come playoffs. Words of advice; make Cory Schneider a number one goalie and trade Roberto Luongo while some teams still think he is of value. Wouldn’t a Luongo-Nash trade be something to see trade deadline day?
Dear Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche, we expected more. The Avalanche had some injuries yet the Flames still seem to be missing one key piece. Fans want to continue to blame Captain Jarome Iginla but that is neither fair nor right. Think otherwise? Any NHL team would be happy for a trade. Colorado fans keep your head up; in the near future your team will be making playoffs with the talents of Ryan O’Reilly, Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene. My prediction, if players stay healthy, will be next year.
Dear Edmonton Oilers, what’s up? Some of the best young talent in the league jumped out to a great start and have fallen down slowly. Only 150 goals for so far this year which is middle of the pack, fans expected more; shame on you for disappointing the NHL fan base.
There is one team left in the Northwest Division, and yes, I left them for last: the Minnesota Wild. You mix a few lines and you get plastered for being a bad guy. You offer a wager of apology depending on if they make playoffs or not and they pass you up on it. Where are my Wild critics now?
The fact is the team is a good team and is under-performing. In part, injuries to Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse have left the team without the depth needed to win. A healthy Wild team is going to be scary, and hopefully next year that will happen. Throwing more craziness into the Nash mix, Dany Heatley and Setoguchi for Nash? What you think?
With four spots remaining and only one division, three are easy to guess but who does the last one come down to? San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes all will make the playoffs, the wild card, the Anaheim Ducks.
The San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings both will be fighting for the division lead right down to the wire. Favored are of course the Sharks, yet if the Kings can learn how to score again, the Kings may take the crown. Let’s hope Captain Anze Kopitar refrains from any disgusting breaks towards the end of the season, providing the team with leadership and skill to make a stronger playoff push.
The Phoenix Coyotes, my second love. The continuous uncertainty of their future and still the team produces a quality product on the ice. Making the playoffs should be fine, with rather equal home and away records, but if they face the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, all hope is lost. The Wings have beat them 2 years in a row in the playoffs.
Dallas Stars’ fans should be worried as the division is continuing to be more and more competitive. The Stars, however, are not adding to the mix. Moments of brilliance on the ice are followed by moments of mediocre play. Captain Brenden Morrow trade rumors are never good, but Assistant Captain Loui Eriksson will be fine to fill his shoes, that is, if young 22 year-old and team point leader Jamie Benn doesn’t become the face of the franchise. The Stars are still a year out and one solid goalie away from a playoff spot.
Save the best and wildest for last, the prediction that the Anaheim Ducks will make the playoffs. Coaching problems lead to potty mouth Bruce Boudreau to sign on after being relieved of his coaching duties of the Washington Capitals. Unlikely, but it would be amazing if the Ducks faced the Capitals in the finals. Still, it would be a real good story if the team was able to turn their year around under the new coach and make the playoffs. They have gone 6-2-2 in their last ten, led by veteran Teemu Selanne and young talented stars, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Goalie Jonas Hiller has been solid in the last month with 9 wins and only 2 losses with a .924 save percentage. The Ducks will make the playoffs.
There you have it, playoff spot predictors for the Western Conference. Let’s hear your whines and dislike of the picks. In case you missed the first installment, the Eastern Conference playoff spot predictions can be found here.