Guess what Pred-heads. The playoffs start in a week. We’re down to those last few games and thanks to Colorado’s shootout win at Vancouver in addition to the Calgary loss at home to San Jose, the 8 teams that are going to the dance in the West are known. Really, the Eastern teams are known as well. Does anyone really think the Rangers are gonna claw back into it?All that remains to be seen is what the seedings will be to determine who plays who. If the playoffs started today, your Western Conference matchups would be (1) San Jose vs. (8) Colorado, (2) Chicago vs. (7) Detroit, (3) Vancouver vs. (6) Los Angeles, and lastly (4) Phoenix vs (5) Nashville. I’ve already discussed how I would expect Nashville to fare against any of the 4 teams that could host them in the opening round of the playoffs, so I’ll not delve into that again. In reviewing the teams that are going to the playoffs, I was thinking about the difference of parity between the two conferences. Currently in the West, there are only 5 points that separate the 4-8 spots in the standings. Of those 5 spots, the final 4 could shift up and down quite a bit, because the teams are just so closely matched. In the East however, 12 points separate 4th place Pittsburgh from 8th place Boston. Anaheim’s (11th in the West) 86 points would be enough for 7th place in the East. I feel like the most intriguing playoff hockey is going to come from the West. Of any of the possible matchups in the West, only 1 team to me occurs to me as one that could “upset” another team in the opening round: the Colorado Avalanche. If it hadn’t been for Colorado’s collapse since the Olympic break. we wouldn’t even be able to consider them an upset team. So evenly matched are these teams that if any of the 5th, 6th or 7th place teams have made their way to the 2nd round, could we really call it a surprise? Nashville beating Phoenix, Vancouver or Chicago? Sure, why not? Chicago would obviously be favored over Nashville, and probably Vancouver too. But could a person scratch their head in disbelief if Nashville were to win the series? I don’t feel like they could. The same could be said for Detroit or Los Angeles. Over the course of the season, these teams have proven they have what it takes to run with any of the other teams night in and night out. Out of the East, a Pittsburgh/Ottawa matchup is likely, although there’s a chance Pittsburgh could trade places with New Jersey for the Atlantic division lead. Either way, an Ottawa advance to the 2nd round is highly unlikely. Then consider the other 3 teams: Montreal, Philadelphia and Boston. Against the likes of Washington (God help whoever faces them), New Jersey and Buffalo. A second round that doesn’t have the Caps, Pens, Devils and Sabres in it is a borderline ridiculous thought. But, as they say, that’s why we play the games. As a result of the premium cost at which wins will cost in the west, I have to give the advantage (I know, it’s early, why am I talking about it) to the Eastern conference team that plays for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Western conference team will have to overcome great physical and mental fatigue just to get to the final round, so it figures that the Eastern conference will likely be a much fresher team.
So there you have it. My thoughts as we prepare to enter the playoffs. Now that you know what I think, I would like for you to return the favor. Am I underestimating the Eastern conference? Do the lower 4 have what it takes to steal a series in the East? and who is your favorite in the West? Hit the comment feed below: