The NHL playoffs are approaching quickly. With less than 20 games to go until the battle for the Stanley Cup begins, teams are starting to get chimed in and refine their game. We’re going to take a look at a few of those teams, specifically the top contenders in the Western Conference.
There’s five main beasts in the West: Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Anaheim, and of course, the Los Angeles Kings. Chicago and LA are the consensus favorites, as per usual, to make it to the West final. That being said, Anaheim, Dallas and St. Louis will all have something to say about that. Let’s take a closer look at all five of these teams and a couple of their strengths and weaknesses.
The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. What’s there to say? They are a very well rounded team that got even more dangerous at the trade deadline. They are the clear cut favorite to come out of the West, and undoubtedly the deepest team in the NHL. The additions of Ladd, Fleischmann and Weise at the deadline pushed this team over the top. I don’t believe there is a weakness on this team. Their third pairing on defense might be a minor concern with Van Riemsdyk and Gustafsson, but the Hawks tend to ride Seabrook and Keith come the playoffs.
The Dallas Stars will go as far as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn take them. Dallas isn’t a particularly deep team, and they will run into trouble against teams like Chicago and LA that run a four line attack. That being said, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have shown they can put up some goals in a hurry. Dallas is a fun team that can score in bunches, but in a playoff series against a grinding team, they will be in some trouble. I don’t like their forward depth, and I am not a huge fan of their defensive core. Hamhuis would have been great shutdown defenseman for them, but they chose to go with Russell.
St. Louis Blues
It seems like we’ve been waiting forever for this team to finally break out and go on a playoff run. Will this year be that year? They have the defensive core to challenge any team in the West on any given night, and they do have the game changers in Tarasenko and Steen. St. Louis is one of those teams that just needs to click at the right time. Jake Allen seems to have cemented himself as the #1 goalie they have always needed. We won’t know till April when it counts. I’m looking at depth on this team, can Jaskin, Lehtera and Fabbri contribute in a tight 1-1 game in the third period?
They have been the best team in the NHL since Christmas. The Ducks have looked like a team on a mission in 2016, and they’re a scary proposition for any team heading into the playoffs. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are all playing their best hockey and if they keep it up, they’re a frightening foe to face in the first round. John Gibson and Frederik Andersen seem to have the net on lockdown, the young defensive core could be the make or break come April. Lindholm and Vatanen will be key pieces if the Ducks are to go far, are they experienced enough?
Los Angeles Kings
If there’s any team specifically built for the playoffs, it’s the LA Kings. They grind, grind, grind and grind some more. Anytime I want to prove a point when discussing this team, I look at the series with San Jose when they were down 3-0. They grinded the Sharks down and by the time game 4 rolled around, the Sharks were done. They were up 3-0 in the series, but they were exhausted. The Kings rolled through them the next four games onto a series win. This is a very heavy, and deep team, built for a grinding war. They added Lucic in the summer, they also added Luke Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier via. trade during the season. Any team facing them in the playoffs better be ready for a grinded out war. A minor concern of mine would be the fire power against a team like Chicago. Kopitar, Carter and Lucic are very capable of scoring, but the Hawks have a bit more offensive talent deep into the line-up.
I hope you enjoyed the analysis.