2008 Western Conference Playoff Race: The Wild Wild Northwest?
Five Teams, One Division Playing Great Hockey
The NHL western conference season is coming to an end, with the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators being the only teams with a realistic shot at sneaking into the playoffs. For either to sneak in, they must have a strong finish and hope that both Vancouver and Colorado have a bad week and a half of hockey. Before their current five game losing streak, many had Wayne Gretzky’s, Phoenix Coyotes in the playoffs, but they blew their opportunity.
The northwest division is going to be the most incredible, exciting and intense ending to a season that the NHL has not seen for awhile. All five teams in this division are within six points of each other. Minnesota leads the division with 89 points with Vancouver, Colorado and Calgary in the middle and Edmonton last with 83 points. It is just too bad that no matter what happens; at least one of them will be cleaning their lockers early.
With Detroit almost securing first place in the conference, the question left is who will play them in the first round. Their opponent will be one of four teams, which leaves the fans a great finish to the season. Vancouver plays Colorado twice, while Edmonton has a date with Vancouver and Colorado still to come. Now, if these three teams just end up cancelling each other out, this leaves a possibility of Nashville sneaking in un-noticed.
The Nashville Predators finish the season with a much easier schedule than the others in this race. There is a good opportunity here for the Predators to win four of their last five games, but even that may not be enough. They must go five for five, including a win over Detroit, and the Predators will also need help from certain teams in the northwest.
Detroit and San Jose are the obvious favorites in this conference, but the one team no one should challenge are the Anaheim Ducks. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have nearly the exact same team as last year. Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger, Ryan Getzlaf plus an entire roster of players with Stanley Cup Championship playoff experience. How dare we not forget to mention four-time Stanley Cup winner, Scott Niedermayer, an obvious and proven playoff superstar. Yes, San Jose and Detroit get notable mentions, but the cup is Anaheim’s to lose.
With these three teams getting all the attention, the Dallas Stars had expectations to be contenders. They acquired Brad Richards from Tampa Bay and may have what it takes to pull some upsets. The issue they have is that it looks like they may have a first round date with Anaheim, which is not a good thing. Teams like the Flames and Wild also have the explosiveness and goaltending needed for the playoffs, but neither team has solid number one lines. In the playoffs, teams need more than just their superstars to shine.
Anaheim, for example, has two solid scoring lines, a decent third line, a whole lot of grit, proven goaltending, a ruthless coach, and a general manager who loves to win. This combination wins cups. But every year there seems to be a Cinderella team that usually comes out of the west. Calgary did this two years ago and Edmonton the year before. These two Canadian teams used the proper prescription to lead them to the finals, but neither team won.
With the chaotic, unpredictable northwest division, the shoot out is on for who gets the two final playoff spots. Betting on who is in and who is out, would be a good as a coin flip.
To all hockey fans; sit back and enjoy the great playoff hockey in the west that is happening before the playoffs.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
> Check out Kevin's NHL Eastern Conference playoff race article!
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