2017-18 Midseason Hockey Roundup – Western Conference

The Hockey Roundup is back! As we’ve mentioned on the podcast, we’ll be reintegrating hockey and basketball into our segments as football winds down and with Spring Training being a month away. If you haven’t read my Eastern Conference blog yet, check that out. Today, we’re looking at the Western Conference.

Note: All standings will be as of Thursday night.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. Winnipeg Jets (59 Points)–One of the younger teams in the league has been one of the more prolific on offense, and even more deadly on the power play. With four players, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, and rookie Kyle Connor, already with 15+ goals and a fifth, Blake Wheeler (14 goals), right there, Winnipeg has been able to consistently stay towards the top of the most competitive division in the NHL. Watch out for the Jets to make some noise come playoff time.
  2. Nashville Predators (56 Points)–The Preds haven’t looked look they’ve missed a beat since the Cup final last year. Once again, Nashville is rock solid on defense and their better-than-average offense propels them past teams. Pekka Rinne and PK Subban anchor this team and the best thing the Preds have going from them has been perfectly replacing players they lost from the Cup run. Nashville is also an incredible environment for a game, I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s the link of the podcast where I talk about my experience at a Predators game back in November (It’s about the first six minutes).
  3. St. Louis Blues (55 Points)–The Blues have been one of the more peculiar teams to watch this season. STL has dummied some teams but has looked like an AHL in some more recent outings (see their 6-3 loss to the Flyers). The Blues beat the weaker opponents but struggle against teams in the playoff contenders. Obviously, the Blues have done well enough for themselves to be sitting in third currently, but the streakiness is certainly to be concern about.
  4. Dallas Stars (51 Points)–Much like St. Louis, Dallas has been very much in the of the road when comes to their first half: ranked in the tweens for both offense and defense and also having the ability to win in high-scoring affairs as well as utilizing new netminder Ben Bishop to grind out a low-scoring win. Dallas’ real concern comes from being absolutely terrible on the road. The Stars play rather sluggish when away from Big D and will need to be sure to be up in the second half.
  5. Minnesota Wild (50 Points)–Minnesota has been lesser-version of what I just wrote about the Stars–good at home, ABYSMAL on the road. I did happen to watch them grind out a road win in Chicago last night, but even that win hammered home my initial thought of them: they’re the early 2010’s Nashville Predators. The Preds used to be this team that didn’t score a lot but had a solid defense that kept them hanging in near the bottom playoff seeds and didn’t have the ammo to get beyond the first round. Devan Dubnyk is great but the offense is not.
  6. Chicago Blackhawks (48 Points)–The Blackhawks should probably have a better record than they currently do. Their offense is well balanced, their defense is anchored by a GREAT first half from goalie Corey Crawford. The only real knocks I can give the Hawks are an aging defensive unit and streaky play. From November 28th to December 28th, Chicago lost five-straight, won five-straight, and then lost three straight. If they point the ship in the right direction, their record could start to match their goal differential (3rd in the Central, 5th in the West).
  7. Colorado Avalanche (47 Points)–The Avs come down to the same thing that plagues Dallas and Minnesota: terrible play on the road. Unlike the two, however, Colorado can SCORE. Nathan Mackinnon has had a BIG bounce back and is currently tied for 2nd in the league in points at 52. The Avs have also won five-straight games so their plenty to be optimistic about. Just play better on the road, not a hard ask.

Pacific Division

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (60 Points)–The story of the season. Vegas has taken this “Island of Misfit Toys” mantra to the next level setting all kinds of records for an expansion. Despite players using the IR like a revolving door, most notably all of their goalies, Vegas continues to light up the league. Jonathan Marchessault (FLA), James Neal (NSH), and Marc Andre Fleury (PIT) were among the more notable names the Knights snagged in the Expansion Draft and they’ve all lived up to their hype. The Knights’ biggest concern right now is the Army–and that’s not really a big deal.
  2. LA Kings (53 Points)–The Kings have, by FAR, the best defense in the NHL, plain and simple. Because of this and a weak Pacific Division, LA has been able to overcome streaky play and subpar offense to sit in the perfect spot to make the playoffs. How deep they’ll run depends on a few things: their older core (Brown, Kopitar, Doughty) and the rest of the division. In the recent four division era, we’ve seen plenty of Pacific teams make second-half charges into the playoffs and plenty of others plummet out of contention. If LA’s older core continues to play like 2012, the Kings should be. If the core falters, LA might be apart of the second group I mentioned.
  3. Calgary Flames (50 Points)–Another team consisting of a solid young core (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, & Matt Tkachuk) with a veteran presence, Calgary hits the halfway mark as one of the hottest teams in hockey. Earlier tonight (Thursday), the Flames SMACKED the Lighting in Tampa Bay 5-1 with both Gaudreau and Tkachuk lighting the lamp. However, similarly to LA the offense isn’t fully developed and ranks 20th in scoring but a weak division puts them in a great position to get back to the postseason.
  4. San Jose Sharks (48 Points)–I hate to say it, but the Sharks are beyond their window; it’s probably not fully closed, but San Jose’s core group (Joe Thronton, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, and Joe Pavelski) is getting older and are underperforming. The defense has been pretty sound and the special teams have been tops in the league, but that offense in even-strength struggles to make a serious impact.
  5. Anaheim Ducks (47 Points)–Don’t let the point total fool you, Anaheim benefits from nine OT losses. The Ducks’ offense is really underperforming from where it could be. Partially from injuries but guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have combined for 10 goals. We’ve seen Anaheim in this situation, though, and they could very well go on a second-half run into the playoffs.
  6. Edmonton Oilers (39 Points)–*sigh* After looking like the team of the future a year ago, the Oilers reverted to the team we’ve known them to be: great young forward talent, and THAT’S IT. Cam Talbot is a mere shadow of himself sporting a 3.01 GAA and no one is helping Connor McJesus. EDM was one game I refused to give up when I got my season tickets at the start of the year and while I was excited to see a Flyers win, I was a little disappointed it didn’t live up to the 6-5 masterpiece from last season. Good lord Connor McDavid is fun to watch, though.
  7. Vancouver Canucks (38 Points)–It’s been the same story for the past couple seasons with Vancouver: the Sedins absorb a lot of money and they try to fit the pieces in from there. The positive: rookie Brock Boeser is FOR REAL. He’s no McDavid or Matthews, but watch out for his name to keep climbing the radar. If VAN comes to your town, go watch him, you’ll be in for a treat.
  8. Arizona Coyotes (26 Points)–Yikes. I’m going to take this time to talk about Clayton Keller. He’s third in rookies with 32 points but is MINUS 22. Like Boeser, watch out for Keller’s name. The ‘Yotes haven’t been able to really attract any serious talent. Either they’ll just have to keep hitting the lottery in the draft, or move to a larger hockey market.

Playoff Teams:
Central: #1 Winnipeg, #2 St. Louis, #3 Nashville
Pacific: #1 LA Kings, #2 Vegas, #3 Calgary
Wild Cards: #1 Chicago, #2 Dallas

Disagree with my picks? Let me know in the comments

(cover photo via)

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