Hockey Roundup: Western Conference Reset

Welcome back to the Hockey Roundup! After a bit of a hiatus, the THUNDERBLOG’s hockey coverage is finally back in time for the final quarter of the season. Today will be a quick run-through of the Western Conference to reset where everyone sits as we’re seven days from the Trade Deadline. We did the East yesterday so check that out. Let’s get to it!

Central Division

Well last night’s Blackhawks/Wild game made me incredibly happy to have waited to write the West until today. The Hawks won a wild shootout in Minnesota 5-3 as Captain Toews notched three goals and two assists. Minnesota still leads the Central by five points over Chicago but those two should be the only ones in contention for the division crown. In fact, I’d think they’d be the only two serious threats to make the Western Conference Final out the Central side of the bracket. St. Louis has been on a rebound winning seven of their last ten but still sit 12 points behind the Hawks. The Blues and Predators will likely trade the third spot in the division as Nashville currently sits two points back. Both teams are terrible on road ice but I’d give the slight edge to the Preds given their positive goal differential and having two extra home games on St. Louis. Winnipeg is an incredibly exciting team to watch with all of their youth, especially Patrik Laine and his 30 goals. While the Jets are a top ten team in scoring, they’re in the bottom ten for goals against and in special teams as well. Like Tampa Bay, the Dallas Stars have been disappointing. Their three-headed goal-scoring monster of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Patrick Eaves are the only ones finding the back of the net and their defense is atrocious. Colorado is a mess. Plain and simple. The Av’s have the bottom spot in the league all but locked up at this point.

Pacific Division

The top three spots in the division aren’t 100% secure, but they’re pretty close at this point. San Jose sits atop the Pacific with 77 points while Edmonton and Anaheim are tied for second with 72 points each. The Sharks look to be the favorite to reach the West Conference final out of the Pacific side of the bracket as Edmonton’s youth could show in the playoffs and Anaheim has seemingly taken San Jose’s long-held “playoff choker” title after last year. Calgary and LA are close to reaching the postseason but they’ll both narrowly miss. Calgary’s offense is getting where it needs to be but their defense is pretty bad. LA is the opposite; they’ve allowed nearly the least amount of goals in the league but the same can be said about their offense. Vancouver has maybe one of the most interesting splits of all NHL teams: they are 18-9-3 at home, amongst the best in the league, and are 8-19-3 on the road, amongst the worst. Arizona is playing some pretty horrible hockey as well. At 49 points, the Coyotes have probably sealed their fate at the bottom of the Pacific.

Playoff Matchups:

Minnesota (CEN #1) vs. Winnipeg (WC)
Chicago (CEN #2) vs. Nashville (CEN #3)
San Jose (PAC #1) vs. St. Louis (WC)
Edmonton (PAC #2) vs. Edmonton (PAC #3)

Other NHL News:

  • The NHLPA is pushing heavily for the NHL to reduce the number of bye weeks to group teams various bye weeks to half the league resting one week while the another half rests the next week. So far, the 20 teams who have taken their bye weeks are 4-12-4 in the first game after the bye week. The thought is basically that a rested team is a rusty team so why not play the rusty teams against each other to help regain their legs and timing. I’ve been indifferent to the concept of the bye week in hockey but I certainly see the argument considering the scheduling disadvantage NFL teams can fall into. Although with the NFL, the rested team usually has the advantage and not the opposite that we’re seeing in the NHL.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights will not be active at the trade deadline. Yes, the new expansion team to the NHL was looking get their franchise documents in fast enough to wheel and deal with the other 30 teams at the trade deadline. Well why won’t they be? Owner Bill Foley was unable to get the paperwork and final payment in to the league in time. It would have been really intriguing to see how the Golden Knights would have affected the deadline. The prospect of not just draft picks but Expansion draft rights being on the table for discuss would have made the next week insane. I guess we’ll just have to wait on the expansion draft for that kind of hockey madness.

Disagree with my playoff picks? Let me know in the comments…

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