Joel Dorcas | June 7th, 2020
On to the Western Conference. Comparing the two Conferences there is a lot to like in both. The East seems to be heavily favored to the Bruins and Lightning while the West appears to be more wide open with more teams being weighted more equally. Let’s count it down again, 12 through one, as we now take a look at the Western Conference rankings heading into the 24-Team Tournament.
Check out the Eastern Conference Rankings here: Pre-24 Team Tournament NHL Rankings-Eastern Conference
12. Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8)
Arizona certainly has a game-breaker in Taylor Hall, after that, however, the scoring dries up. This is a team that relies on goaltending and defense. It’s difficult to imagine this squad going any further than the round of 16. Not enough depth or game-breakers. Either one of the goaltenders, Darcy Kuemper or Antti Raanta will have to stand on their heads for the ‘yotes to make a prosperous run, I don’t see it happening.
11.Minnesota Wild (35-27-7)
The Wild certainly turned their fortunes around after a brutal 4-10 start. However, there is nothing all that exciting about this team. What they do well is limit the opponents scoring chances, as they play a tight-checking defensive game. The wild led the league in scoring chances given up with 1228. Winger Kevin Fiala, who’s had a nice second half, will need to score more consistently, and center, Eric Staal will need to morph into “2006 Eric Staal“. Any scenario where the Wild gets past the initial round should be deemed as a success.
10. Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8)
The Hawks were certainly prone to giving up plenty of goals in the first half of the season. They have tightened things up considerably and are now given a second chance to play meaningful games. Even still, the aging defensive core led by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will have to turn back the clock and play above expectations. The opening play-in series with the Edmonton Oilers is guaranteed to be exciting. Both teams have explosive offensive talents, with the Hawks having nothing to lose. If Patrick Kane takes over, a first-round upset is definitely in play.
9. Nashville Predators (35-26-8)
Nashville began the season scoring at a very high rate while also allowing far too much at the other end of the rink. In turn, the Preds lost their identity as a premier defensive team. Also of concern, is the sub-par netminding they have received from Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne. Despite this, both have the potential to get red-hot over the course of the postseason. The team’s biggest strength is the depth at defense. The Preds generate a lot of offense through this group, led by, of course, Roman Josi. Don’t sleep on the Preds, plenty of talent here, just a matter of putting it all together.
8. Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6)
This team gets considerably better with goaltender Jacob Markstrom healthy and in the lineup. Many believe he has been the Canucks best player this season. His .918 save percentage stands out as the Canucks have given up way too many scoring chances. They have given up 1791 which pits them all the way down at 25th overall. As for offensive production, they are doing just fine. Difference makers are forward J.T. Miller and defenseman Quinn Hughes. Vancouver would be nowhere near where they are without these two.
7. Calgary Flames (36-27-7)
Calgary has some pretty noticeable question marks heading into the play-in-series with Winnipeg. Do they have a capable number one netminder? Will Johnny Gaudreau come alive during the tournament? The numbers suggest that the Flames are mediocre offensively and defensively. Gaudreau stepping up his game will certainly add a jolt to the offense. Goaltender David Rittich will have to be better than what he was during the regular season as he posted just a .907 save percentage.
6. Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6)
Without the incredible play of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets are nowhere near where they are right now. The Jets, who lack defensive depth, have given up 1874 scoring chances this season, 30th in the league. Thankfully, the Jets have excellent goaltending. They also have a talented group of forwards led by Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Patrik Laine. If Dustin Byfuglien was still a member of the organization, this team could have done some serious damage. Despite his absence, the Jets are still a good team.
5. Dallas Stars (37-24-8)
Many analysts had the Dallas Stars as a Stanley Cup contender for the 2020 season. After a brutal 1-8 start, they have certainly turned things around. Despite some inconsistent play, Dallas is still a playoff-worthy contender with a deep defensive group and steady goaltending(2nd ranked goals against per game of 2.52). Of concern is if they will get consistency from their group of talented forwards led by Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov. To date, Benn and Radulov have performed well below expectations.
4. Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9)
This team will go as far as Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid can take them, this is a scary proposition for the rest of the league. The two stars have combined for an impressive 207 points this season. Both are dynamic and elite and can do serious damage if they are given any space. Also to like is Edmonton’s premier special team units. The Oilers rank second in the league in penalty killing(84.4%) and first in terms of having the man advantage(29.5%)-5.3% higher than the second-ranked Bruins. Either Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith will have to emerge as a legitimate number one goalie if Edmonton is to go on an extended playoff run.
3. Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8)
It doesn’t get much more exciting than Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche. This is a team that can match up against any opponent when it comes to putting the puck in the net. The emergence of defenseman Cale Makar adds another layer of talent that will be difficult to contain. Like many other clubs, goaltending could be an issue. Despite the dependable play of Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer during the regular season, both will be responsible of being the last line of defense with limited playoff experience.
2.Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8)
Much like the Avalanche, the Golden Knights were surging to an identical 9-2 record heading into the break. Vegas has one of the deepest rosters in the league. Six players have eclipsed the 40 point plateau. In terms of game flow, the Knights carry the play better than anyone else in terms of five-on-five situations. They rank first in Corsi For percentage at 55.3 and in Scoring Chances For at 56.7%. The Knights also have a solid situation in goal. They have two number one caliber netminders in Marc-Andre Fleury and former Blackhawk Robin Lehner.
1.St.Louis Blues (42-19-10)
The defending Cup champs have certainly picked up from where they left off after their prosperous Championship run. Based on point percentage, the Blues rank number two overall in the entire league. They were on an impressive 9-2 tear when play was halted in mid-March. When play resumes, they should get a jolt to their offense with the expected return of snipping winger Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko had been out with an injured shoulder that occurred way back in October. If the Blues had a weakness, it would be on offense as they rank just 15th in league scoring with 3.14 goals per game averaged. Tarasenko should be a welcome addition.
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