Yesterday, On Goal Analysis posted its Game 50 (G50) blog about the Western Conference teams and their projections on into the playoffs. Today we look at the Western Conference…
The West is tight and therefore, many folks will tell you it is too difficult to predict. We hope to shed some better light on these 15 teams than throwing or hands up and telling you to pick ‘em.
Our recipe contains the same three ingredients as yesterday’s main course: an accounting of your team’s Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC); their projected finish in terms of Conference position and team points; and the likelihood of a surge or ebb in team play heading to G60…
The Western Conference
Anaheim Ducks. As of their G54, ANA is currently playing In The Curve, or just about average against the PQC. This is off of the back of a decent surge executed despite an injured Ryan Getzlaf. Their current PQC has only two better since the Lockout at G50: 2006/7 when they won The Cup and 2007/8. Their current projected points/finish in the West is 96 points/6th place. ANA’s propensity is to have a bit of an ebb going into G60, but their strong play indicates otherwise will occur – look for continued PQC improvement over the rest of the furlong.
Calgary Flames. CGY was the second and last Western team to be called at Tee Time back G29/9 December. They have since surged to a 15-6-5 record and began this morning as the West’s 8th seed. Projected points/finish in the West at G55 is 92 points/9th place. And while they are currently on a roll, they are due for a dip in their PQC, especially when you consider three of their next five games include contests against ANA, VAN and DAL.
Chicago Blackhawks. CHI is currently playing In The Curve and shows distinct signs they are not last year’s squad. As they hit the 50-game mark, their PQC was their lowest in the last two seasons and quite a bit off of last years’ pace. Their current projected points/finish in the West at G53 is 91 points/10th place. They are not likely to be called Chasing Stanley by G60 and odds are 2:1 their PQC ebbs a bit by G60. They need to dig in to return to the playoffs this year.
Colorado Avalanche. COL is also currently playing In The Curve right on par with CHI at G50. At that mark, their PQC was at its lowest, make-the-playoffs-season point tied with 2007/8. Their current projected points/finish in the West at G53 is 88 points/13th place. At best they will only remain In The Curve at G60 with odds at 5:3 COL will take a dip in their PQC this 10-game stretch. This does not bode well for playoff entry this season if the trend continues.
Columbus Blue Jackets. CBJ was called Chasing Stanley at G20/on 24 November. Ever since then, they have been attempting to force OGA to make a Shot Off The Post (SotP) call stating that we were incorrect in our first prediction. Based on current play, they are off their 2008/9 playoff entry pace by a notch. Their current projected points/finish in the West at G52 is 89 points/12th place. While odds are 5:1 they will see a continued PQC skid, they are showing some promise after a big win over DET and a one-goaler over EDM.
Dallas Stars. DAL was called Chasing Stanley for the first time in three seasons at G30/13 December. Despite a 1-5 record in their last six games, they remain high on the food chain in the Conference. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 53 is 101 points/3rd place behind VAN and DET. Odds are a bit better than 2:1 of them decreasing their PQC by G60, but they should be a solid lock for a Playoff seed.
Detroit Red Wings. DET was called Chasing Stanley at G20/26 November. Their PQC is only their fourth best in the six years since the Lockout, but at G50 was higher than all but PHI and VAN League-wide. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 53 is 108 points/2nd place behind VAN. Based on current play, expect a slight uptick in their PQC by G60. This team is slowing down, but they ain’t stopped yet as OGA calls them a Playoff ‘lock’ for 2011.
Edmonton Oilers. EDM, in an acknowledged rebuilding season, was predictably called at Tee Time at G20/23 November. Their G50 PQC is worse than every year except 2008/9. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 53 is 61 points/15th place and 30th in the League. It is even money their PQC continues to ebb by G60, but it is more likely they will skid some more. Still, the speedy squad is exciting to watch on many nights.
Los Angeles Kings. The LAK were called Chasing Stanley at G20/22 November. Their G50 PQC is not as kind, sitting at only its third best since the Lockout. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 53 is 96 points/5th place, but they must get their groove on for longer winning stretches. After three straight losing furlongs, expect the Kings to pick up the pace with a PQC gaining stretch by G60.
Minnesota Wild. A pleasant surprise in the State of Hockey this season, MIN has been playing strongly In The Curve and flirting with an opportunity to reach Chasing Stanley status over the last 20 games. Their G50 PQC is tied with their best in 2007/8, the last time they entered the Playoffs. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 52 is 96 points/4th place in the West. Expect the Wild to remain In The Curve by G60 due to a remaining furlong schedule of 8 games in 13 nights with two back-to-back pairs, but keep an eye on this squad as the Playoffs loom.
Nashville Predators. It cannot be overstated that NSH is a blue collar, hardworking team. They were called Chasing Stanley at G30/15 December, but were sporting only their fourth best, post-Lockout PQC at G50. With a bit of a streaky season, at G54 their projected points/finish in the West is 95 points/8th place. Odds are 4:3 they will drop off on the PQC by G60 but the schedule pushing out to there is favorable with recovery time between every game. If anyone can beat the odds, it is the Predators.
Phoenix Coyotes. Not last year’s team, this PHX has been playing only In The Curve all season. Their G50 PQC is second best since the Lockout, but that is also behind last years’ similar marker where they experienced a slight dip in play enroute to the Playoffs. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 55 is 90 points/11th place in West. Look for a PQC uptick in this team leading into G60, but in reality, they need to play 10% better on through to the playoffs to secure a seed.
San Jose Sharks. One of only three teams to make the Playoffs every year since the Lockout, SJS has struggled this season sitting at only In The Curve. Their G50 PQC is second worst in six years behind 2005/6. That said, projected points/finish in the West at Game 53 is 95+ points/7th place in West. They have enjoyed a 7-0-1 streak of late which they need to continue in order to push their way up to a Chasing Stanley call. Expect the Sharks’ PQC to grow heading toward G60.
St. Louis Blues. STL was called Chasing Stanley on a strong showing out of the gate at G10/4 November. They carried that momentum on through G20 and then began a skid. Their G50 PQC is only as good as 2009/10 when they failed to make the playoffs. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 51 is 85 points/14th place in the West. They need a stretch like their first 20 games to right the ship or they are looking at joining CBJ as a potential SotP this season.
Vancouver Canucks. Tops in the League, VAN is hot, hot, hot this season. They have been Chasing Stanley since G30/18 December and have only lost two games in regulation since then. They join DAL and DET as a solid playoff contender with the second highest margin of PQC ‘lock’ is in the League this season. Their G50 PQC is their best since the Lockout by several notches. Projected points/finish in the West at Game 54 is 115 points/1st place in West and the League. This team has depth in its favor, so expect a continued PQC rise heading toward G60.
So the Western Conference is likely to have seven teams increase their PQC while eight drop off, a prediction a bit better than the Eastern Conference and in line with this seasons’ performances. We are getting to crunch time now as things are most set in terms of the PQC by G60. Let’s see where the competition and excitement take us going forward…
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