Slapshots (column): West will dominate this season
While on the East Coast, the Western Conference teams are often forgotten, but right now, they are tearing up the National Hockey League.
Chicago has yet to lose a game in regulation and is 7-0-3 in their last 10 games. With 23 points, they are leading the league and don’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews lead the team in points with 20 and 13 points respectively.
Kane also leads the team with nine goals.
Another Western Conference team soaring right now is the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks, led by former Washington bench boss Bruce Boudreau, are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are riding a two-game win streak.
Their 19 points are second for best in the league along with New Jersey, but with one less game played, their points per game average is better.
Teemu Selanne, who many forget is still playing due to his age, leads the team with 14 points.
Offseason acquisition Daniel Winnik leads in goals with five, but the Ducks have their scoring spread out with seven players netting four.
Having scoring spread out among multiple players is one of the reasons Anaheim will go far this season.
The Ducks narrowly missed the playoffs last season and are looking to continue the momentum from last year into this one.
Secondary scoring comes in handy late in the playoffs when the other teams have figured out the top two lines. It looks like Boudreau is learning from his multiple disappointments in Washington.
The top four spots in the league belong to teams from the West. In terms of goaltending, the West is absolutely owning the east.
Seven of the top 10 goaltenders in save percentage reside with Western teams.
Vancouver just misses having both of its goaltenders in the top 10 with Cory Schneider rounding out at 11th with a .921. The Canucks’ Luongo leads the Western goalies at second overall with a .943 save percentage.
Most of the Western teams, once they got started, kept rolling. The San Jose Sharks, while they have recently hit a road bump, had a strong enough start that this slump in momentum has only dropped the Sharks to fourth in the conference.
The Sharks had seven straight wins to start the season, a program best, which also featured the first NHL shutout for goaltender Thomas Greiss.
But even with the team’s minor slump, Patrick Marleau hasn’t lost his scoring touch, still at second in the league with 10 goals. Also topping the leader boards is Antti Niemi. He’s fourth in the league with a 1.74 goals against average and fourth with a .935 save percentage.
Sure, a point can be made for how good New Jersey and Boston are this season, but these are teams that have a tendency to run out of momentum as the season progresses.
But in this shortened season, the strong early starts may separate a top playoff team from those hoping for a high draft pick.
The West has always dominated the regular season and that trend doesn’t look to be ending any time soon.
Regardless of what happens the rest of this shortened season, the West should not be underestimated.
The teams have their guns blazing and there’s a high chance the Stanley Cup will be staying on that side of the continent.