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All season long, there has been a lot of dialogue and discourse about how the Western Conference is a lot stronger than the East. Analysts heralded that the teams in the West were better, the game was faster, and the stats guys backed it up.
As it stands now, seven of the top ten teams in the standings are from the West, and five of the bottom six teams are from the East. This makes the West, statistically speaking, much deeper and more competitive. Indeed, most NHL experts will tell you that they favor a team from the West to win it all, such as the Ducks or the Blues.
Fret not, Bruins fans. I’ve been digging up some research and reading reports, and I’m here to tell you right now that not only should you not fear the West, you shouldn’t fear any team in hockey. I”m going to take a systematic look at the six powerhouse teams in the West and tell you why the Black and Gold could and indeed should beat them.
It’s hard not to like this team. Getzlaf and Perry are as good a 1-2 punch that exists in the NHL. With the ageless wonder Teemu Selanne and the emergence of Cam Fowler as a top defenseman, this team has been rolling all season long. They currently sit 3rd in the league, but lead all teams in goals.
The reason the Ducks don’t scare me is that they’re a very top-heavy team. After Getzlaf and Perry, they don’t have any immediate offensive threats that can contribute every night. Chara and Boychuk/Hamilton would be matched up against them all series long. Depth is needed in the playoffs; you can’t be too reliant on one or two guys. I think their lack of depth will wear them down. Though some names are the same, this is not the same team that won the Cup in 2007.
Jumbo Joe Thornton is the poster child for regular season standouts/ postseason fall-outs. Year in and year out the Sharks are among the top teams in the league and always seem to take an early exit. It’s a constant disappointment, and it’s hard to expect this year to be any different.
What I like even more about this is that they’re currently slated to play the LA Kings in the first round. Other teams in the league LOVE this. They’re a great matchup; Kings lead the season series 3-2. I fully expect these teams to just beat the crap out of each other in a long series. My money’s on the Kings, though.
Speaking of the Kings, this is one of the team’s that I would worried (not scared, mind you) about. They’re a very deep team, tough defensively (1st in league in GA/gm), and have an elite goaltender. This is a team that knows how to win. They have all kinds of scoring options and love to grind teams out by blocking shots and playing the body. They’ll do whatever it takes.
Jonathon Quick also has the ability to individually take over series for a long playoff run, as we saw in 2012. They’re also dominant on the road. They play a very similar style to the Bruins. However, this team has gone through streaks where they’ve had trouble scoring and they don’t have the offensive firepower like we do. I like the Bruins in a 7 game series.
Yes, even the mighty Blackhawks are beatable. Very much so, in fact. Nobody questions that they were the better team last year, but the Bruins have done well against them this year, losing in a shootout early this season and shutting them out 3-0 two weeks ago.
Now factor in that they are currently without Kane and Toews. Both of these players will likely return for the playoffs, but who knows what state they’ll be in (Illinois, har har). Great team offensively, solid team defensively, and the have one of the best goalies in the league. It doesn’t matter though, because they’re going to lose in the first round to the Avalanche.
What a year it’s been for Patrick Roy and the Avalanche. This is one of the the youngest, most exciting teams in hockey. They’re confident, they have complete faith in Roy, and they’re ready to show the league that they’re not messing around. As far as I’m concerned, their sole job is to beat the Blackhawks. They’ve had their number all season long, winning four of five.
I’ll tell you why they won’t win this year though. They’re a young, developing team. They’ve got talent, yes. But very little experience. There are certain growing pains and learning curves that players go through. This team has a young, talented, and exciting core. But they’re not ready for a Cup just yet. Duchene, Landeskog, and MacKinnon must go through the same growing pains that Crosby and Malkin, Kane and Toews, even Bergeron and Krejci went through. Their offensive leaders- Duchene, Stastny, Landeskog, O’Reilly, MacKinnon, and Parenteau- have a combined playoff experience of 27 games. This has been a great story, but this is not the year for them. Oh, but don’t forget to beat the Blackhawks, boys.
This is the team we all want to see. Practically a mirror image of the Bruins, these guys have all the weapons and making of a Stanley Cup team. They always seem to be *right* there but don’t get over that hump to the Stanley Cup Finals. This is the match-up I foresee for the Bruins. So let’s break it down even further:
Bruins have a better Goals/Game average and a slightly better power-play%. However, the Blues have more of those dynamic goal scorers in Steen and Oshie. Not to mention the Blues have a lot more power-play goals since the Bruins don’t get a lot of PP chances (ahem they don’t dive or flop ahem). If you look at a side-by-side player stat list you’d honestly be amazed at the similarities.
I don’t think anyone has a better defense than the Bruins. Best defensive players on paper? Maybe not. But as a group, their system is a nightmare for opponents. The Bruins have the edge in GA/G, and not to mention the fact that they lead the league in offensive contributions from their d corps.
Blues did themselves a huge favor by acquiring Ryan Miller at the deadline. We all saw what he was capable of at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. And he’ll certainly be motivated since this is the best chance he’s ever had to win the Stanley Cup. However, stats don’t lie. Rask is better in wins, GAA, SV% and shutouts. Plus, now that Rask has a long playoff run under his belt, he’s ready to go and win one for himself. It’s close.
The Blues are a fantastic team top to bottom. This would likely be a long, hard-fought, and bitter playoff series. But the Bruins were a minute and a half away from forcing a Game 7 last year. They’re rolling on all cylinders and the can taste blood. No way they let this chance slip away again. Not to mention some of Boston’s favorite villains are on the Blues: Ott and Lapierre. You think they’re gonna let those guys beat them?
Is this enough to persuade you? This is arguably the best Bruins team of all time, statistically speaking. They’re two wins away from setting a franchise record. Anything short of a Stanley Cup victory is a bitter, bitter disappointment.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts below!