NHL: How the West Will Be Won
The Western Conference has showcased a lot of depth throughout the season, with many teams vying for playoff spots.
The Vancouver Canucks are the only club who has really distanced themselves from the pack, they are atop the conference, have clinched the
Presidents Trophy, and have ten points in hand on second place San Jose. However, is there a consensus that the Canucks are a lock to make the Stanley Cup? Not at all. There are at least three other teams with legitimate shots to win the conference: Detroit, San Jose and Chicago. Along with Vancouver, lets examine each of them:
This team has played rather consistent hockey throughout the season. Nothing less would be expected from a club which has one of the top goaltenders in the world in Roberto Luongo. His 37 wins are first in the league and his 2.14 GAA (goals against average)is third.
The Sedin brothers have been at the top of their game all year as well, the questions then come from the teams depth and their defense. Luongo will be a steadying force in the playoffs, as he always is, but will the blueliners be able to keep the opposition from getting 40 shots a game. Luongo has made then tenth most saves of all goaltenders this season, somewhat high for a team with such a good record. This gripe is small, but it is something to watch as the playoffs unfold.
The Sharks are an offensive juggernaut there is no denying that. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley, and Ryan Clowe all have over 60 points on the season. This shows incredible scoring balance, a necessity in the playoffs. So we know the Sharks will score with anybody, and they have a goaltender in Antti Niemi that won a Stanley Cup last season with the Blackhawks. All the pieces seem to be in place for playoff success, which makes the Sharks biggest hurdle the mental aspect of the game. There is a stigma about San Jose, that they cant win in the playoffs. This team has had expectations before, and they always fall apart. There is veteran leadership in the locker room, Thornton and Marleau just need to finally put the puzzle together, because this group is not getting any younger.
Are the Red Wings ever not a threat to win it all? This team has embodied stability and success for almost two decades now. They have top tier offensive talent in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and one of the best defenseman in all time in Nick Lidstrom. However it is the role players which give this team a level of depth the rest of the league has to envy.Continued on the next page