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It’s a tight race for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, but who will prevail?
By Chris Yackel
There are two weeks remaining in the NHL regular season and with the playoffs quickly approaching there still is playoff positioning that needs to be decided, especially in the Western Conference. As of right now there are 4 teams that are in serious contention for the final 3 playoff spots in the western conference. They are the Anaheim Ducks, the Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. Three will make, one will miss.
GP: 76, Record: 39-24-13, 91 PTS, 3rd in the Pacific Division
The Ducks are a team that if they make the playoffs they can make a lot of noise. They are a team that in the first half of the season were decimated with injuries and have climbed their way back into contention. They are led by their captain Ryan Getzlaf, who is playing an extremely dominant brand of hockey this season with 11 goals and 46 assists for 57 points in only 50 games played. With veterans like Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler as well as solid goaltending and defense this team should not only be able to get in, but a possible Stanley Cup Final is not out of the question.
GP: 75, Record: 41-26-8, 90 PTS, 1st Wild Card in Western Conference
This team is having one of the most incredible comeback seasons in recent memory. This team was the worst in the NHL last year by a landslide and now they are in prime position to make it to the playoffs. They are led by possible MVP candidate Nathan Mackinnon who is having an amazing season with 38 goals and 54 assists for 92 points in only 67 games. Also leading the charge is a name NHL fans should get to know really well and that is Mikko Rantanen. The 21-year-old rising star is having a break out year with 27 goals and 53 assists for 80 points. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is also having a comeback season as he currently has 57 points. This team is very top heavy and not balanced but will be a tough matchup for most teams in the West. Expect Colorado to finish strong and make the playoffs
St. Louis Blues
GP:75, Record: 42-28-5, 89 PTS, 2nd Wild Card in Western Conference
Its crazy to believe after trading Paul Statsny to their division rival Winnipeg Jets that the St. Louis Blues would be in a playoff spot, but after five straight wins that where they sit. It’s extremely impressive for a team with many questions in net, injuries, not great depth and their star player Vladimir Taresanko having a rough year. This isn’t the first time the Blues have done this after trading a star player. People forget St. Louis was out of the playoff race last year when they sent star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals. After that trade the Blues played great down the stretch and surprisingly not only made the playoffs, but won a round as well. Will history repeat itself this year? We shall see.
Los Angeles Kings
GP: 75, Record: 41-28-7, 89 PTS, 4th in Pacific Division, In Playoff bubble
The Los Angeles Kings made several changes this season as they brought in both a new GM in Rob Blake and promoted assistant coach John Stevens to Head Coach. To this point these changes seem to have worked for the Kings. Part of this resurgence for the Kings is because after an off year last year, captain Anze Kopitar has returned to elite form and is having an MVP type of season. Kopitar currently leads the team with 86 points. Jonathan Quick also is healthy and playing well this season as he has a .922 save percentage after missing most of the 2016-17 campaign. Dustin Brown the embattled former captain of the Kings who had seen his offensive production plummet since the 2011-12 season has also had an incredible comeback season. Brown has 23 goals and 30 assists on the season for 53 points. Brown looks like an impact player again for the Kings. Oh, and forgot to mention about that Drew Doughty guy. Doughty is having another Norris trophy type of season with 9 goals and 46 assists for 55 points. This team has a lot of playoff pedigree and can make things really interesting if they make the playoffs.
What the St. Louis Blues have done is truly remarkable, but I just don’t think they have the depth both up the middle and on the backend to make the playoffs. There goaltending is also concerning to me as well. Ultimately, look for the Ducks, Kings and Avalanche to make the playoffs.
Ducks, Kings, Avalanche: IN
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