Imagine losing 18 of 20 games and still only being 10 points out of a playoff spot.
You don’t have to when it comes to this years edition of madness that is the NHL Western Conference. 9 Teams separated by 10 points, fighting for two Wild Card spots. In this post we are going to go over who I think will make the playoffs and what position they will finish in the standings. I will go over the Central and the Pacific first before getting into the Wild card.
1st place – Nashville Predators
I think they are going through a mini-slump and will look to add another piece heading into the trade deadline that will push them up in the standings to 1st. They could look to add some defensive depth as past their top 4, they’ve been suspect to defensive breakdowns. NHL teams are always looking for/shopping 5-7 defensemen, and the Predators have the assets to trade.
2nd place – Winnipeg Jets
You can really just switch Nashville and Winnipeg with these first two positions and nobody would blink an eye as they are both (writing this on the 11th of February) 10+ points above anybody below them. As far as what they could add, check out this post by Brutes Battaglia.
3rd place – St. Louis Blues
They have really come to life haven’t they? From being one of the most disappointing teams to now one of the best comeback stories and riding a hot goalie in Jordan Binnington. I interviewed him when he was with the Chicago Wolves AHL Team, very nice guy. I believe that they have finally started playing like the team they were supposed to be in the beginning.
1st place – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are one consistent goalie away from being just as good as the Tampa Bay Lightning. In saying that I think that Martin Jones can hold it together for the rest of this season and make the Sharks Pacific Division winners for the first time since 2011
2nd place – Calgary Flames
The Flames seem to have a very good 1st line with Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan along with Matthew Tkachuk. I still think they lack the true star power and could be in the running for Mark Stone. They get one more scoring threat they win this division and maybe the cup.
3rd place – Vegas Golden Knights
Cup finalist from the year prior no reason to think they can’t keep their 10 point cushion on 3rd place is in any peril… But you never know with the west. They could look to bolster both their defensive and offensive depth in order to compete with the top 2 teams.
The Wild, Wild Card
1st Wild Card – Colorado Avalanche
TOUGH times have hit the ‘Avs recently. Unless you’re Anaheim Ducks bad the losing streak has to end eventually.. right? Well in this scenario they figure out how to stop a puck and find their way back to winning. Dropping 7 in a row has pushed them down in the standings for now; but this team is better than missing the playoffs. They will wake up and could be a dark horse for the cup.
2nd Wild Card – Chicago Blackhawks
The ‘Hawks were embarrassed. They played so bad they got a Hall of Fame coach fired. They traded yet another young player they drafted for two players who looked like busts. Their starting goalie is/was on the shelf. They also had a 10 game losing streak on top of that. Since that streak, while not amazing, they have a record of 15-9 along with a 7 game winning streak currently. This team has pulled together and in a time where the ‘Hawks should be in a rebuilding state, the moves to bring in Dylan Strome and the play of backup goaltender Colin Delia puts this veteran team on my list to keep up the play and squeak into the playoffs. It also helps they have Patrick Kane.
The Stars are infamous for their last-minute season collapses Now the Stars could find play .500 hockey from here on out and make the 2nd Wildcard spot, but with the latest injury to Starter Ben Bishop it’s a tough task to keep up the surge from teams underneath them and I think they break under the pressure
Losing your first line, top penalty killing, do everything center in Mikko Koivu is catastrophic. Especially for a team trying to get into the playoff race and can’t afford to lose. There’s also the problem of their goal-tending situation. Unfortunately Minnesotta does not have a proper backup and will have to ride Dubnyk hard. There’s 23 games left in the season and it may be prudent to add a goalie. The Wild need a goalie to take the pressure off down the stretch.
Last but not least are the Canucks who are the closest to making the NHL playoff picture while not actually being in a spot right now. This is a team that has punched above their own weight this entire season with Rookie sensation Elias Pettersson leading the way. Their starting goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, and backup Thatcher Demko are both injured and are currently relying on Michael DiPietro who was called up from juniors last week. Risky times for a team so close. Might be better to lose and get a decent draft pick.
stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com