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Is there a bad opponent in the West?

Updated: Apr 17

This is the logo currently used by the NHL's Western Conference.

Image Credits: Unknown, Wikipedia

This year, it seems as if the playoff teams were decided in December in the Western Conference. The Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers were hanging by a thread back then, but have picked up the pace to secure themselves favorable matchups in comparison to facing the prospect of having to play Dallas in the First Round as the 2nd Wild Card.

The playoffs are getting more competitive by the year, and I'm having flashbacks to 2017, when the Eastern Conference was so good that the New York Rangers finished as the 1st Wild Card with 102 points. The Bruins did a similar thing in 2022, going 51-26-5 to get the 1WC spot, so I believe it's becoming a trend for the 1WC in a strong conference to finish around 100 points in the regular season.

Many of us were not surprised at who is making it and who isn't, but what I am finding to be a surprise is how quickly the good and the bad separate. The Oilers may have been the only exception, but the exception does not define the rule. We knew right away that Vancouver and LA were going to be 2 thirds of the top 3 in the Pacific Division, that Boston, Florida, and Toronto would be top 3 tin the Atlantic, despite our preseason doubts. We also knew Dallas and Colorado would jockey for Central supremacy, and that the Hurricanes would be ready to one-up the Rangers.

If Nashville and LA can win their last few games, it would be the first time since 2006-07 that 7 teams in the Western Conference finished with 100 points or more in the regular season. It would also be the 2nd time in 3 years that it happens to either conference, when the Washington Capitals were the 2WC and had 100 points. The playoff system still baffles me in the sense that there are very good teams making those Wild Card spots and having the best matchup that they could ask for. In Nashville's case, they are a playoff quality team that has Stanley Cup experience going up against the Canucks, who at this moment only have 13 points on them. For Tampa Bay, they also are only 13 points back of the 1st place Bruins, and we know that with Boston's playoff history and Tampa Bay's, this won't bode well for Boston.

The idea of winning the division or scoring better in the regular season seems to be dead and gone, as does the idea of playoff upsets, which is a tragedy in my opinion, and it is keeping fans from being able to enjoy a good Stanley Cup Playoff. There's a reason why they play the games after Game 82, but you no longer have the crazy upsets of the 2010 Montreal Canadiens, or the New Jersey Devils losing 2 years in a row in the First Round as the top seed, or the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, just to name a few.

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