With under six games left in the season, some teams are fighting for a playoff shot while others are preparing for a long playoff push. For some of those Western Conference playoff teams, showing abnormal decline in play leaves many fans wondering if they will even get out of the first round? Below is a list of current Western Conference teams slotted into the playoffs with their current standings while looking at their last 10 games played record and some of their potential concerns. Eastern Conference Playoff Worries can be found here.
Vancouver Canucks – 2nd Western Conference (4-5-1)
The Canucks, clinchers of the Northwest Division, home ice advantage, second to the St. Louis Blues, and the first team to ever successfully predict the time-frame of return from a concussion. Chicago Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith’s elbow to the head of Canucks Daniel Sedin has left Sedin out exactly two weeks. A little PR workings? A little upset over being called floppers? The Canucks have gone 4-5-1 in their last 10 leaving them not exactly working well as a team. Concerns in the net with Roberto Luongo continue to linger, whose starting job continues to slide toward backup Cory Schneider. In the 25 games started for Scneider, he has a better save percentage and goals against average. As noted above, Daniel Sedin will be out of the lineup for most likely the remainder of the season due to concussion symptoms. Unless the team is faking, which is quite possible, you never know if Sedin will truly be back in time for the playoffs. At least that is what history has shown us in regards to concussions. Without Sedin, the team just lacks the necessary depth to take on other Cup contender teams. Slotted to
take on the 7th place team, which should come out of the Pacific Division that is currently in a dogfight between four teams, the Canucks are slumping at the wrong (or right depending on your take) time.
Detroit Red Wings – 4th Western Conference (2-6-2)
The Red Wings, with the worst record over the last 10 games in the entire NHL, are looking rather beat-up and worrisome thanks to a slew of injuries. Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Nicklas Lidstrom all have returned to the lineup after recent injuries while Patrick Eaves, Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Jimmy Howard all are still injured. Many of the still remaining injured should start playing sometime this week which still leaves the worry of chemistry. The Red Wings set a home-game win streak record this season which made them look unbeatable come playoff time. The tides have turned and you never know what you are going to get out of the Wings on any given night now; a powerhouse or lack-of-basics-turnover-fest. The final few games are important to the Wings who might play division
thorns the Nashville Predators or division rivals the Chicago Blackhawks.
Phoenix Coyotes – 7th Western Conference (4-2-4)
The Coyotes are fighting hard to make the playoffs in a tough Pacific Division. I guess that is what you get when you wait so long to turn it up. The positive, however, is that the team is clicking on all cylinders come playoffs – if they make it. Captain Shane Doan was suspended after a nasty elbow to the head of Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. The team has gone 1-1 in the two games missed by the Captain and has a tough match-up against the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues today on the tail end of a back-to-back. Thankfully for them, when Doan does return, their schedule looks a little easier with games against the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. The team rests on the shoulders of netminder Mike Smith, who has started 62 games with a record of 33-18-10. To date, Smith has a .924 save percentage and a 2.36 goals against average. Lead goal-scorer Radim Vrbata is still out with an illness turned lower-body injury. The Coyotes hope to hold onto a playoff spot and, if so, they should be fine – especially since a first-round match-up against the Detroit Red Wings is highly unlikely.