With under 10 regular season games to go for every team in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche stand as the clear favorite to represent the west in the Stanley Cup. Colorado is the only team in the west to have clinched a playoff spot and are 15 points ahead of the next closest team, the Calgary Flames.
There isn’t much of a doubt in any hockey fan’s mind about who will be taking the Western Conference crown this season. However, don’t call it for the Avs just yet. There’s more than meets the eye to the Western Conference as the playoffs loom.
Current Playoff Picture
Of course the standings are subject to change with just about three weeks remaining in the regular season schedule, but let’s take a look at where things currently stand.
First off, it’s the Central Division leaders and all but certain winners, the Colorado Avalanche who would be hosting the #2 Wild Card team in the Dallas Stars. While this matchup may feel cut and dried already, it’s important to keep in mind that Dallas actually took the season series 2-1 from Colorado this season.
The Stars outscored the Avalanche by five goals (7-2) in their wins while getting shutout 4-0 in their only loss to the juggernaut.
Other than that fact, it’s hard not to go with the Avs in this matchup. This Colorado team has been an absolute steamroller at 114 team points, 287 goals for and only 202 goals against. They boast a record of 54-14-6 which has been largely due to the incredible play from winger Mikko Rantanen, the team leader in points (88) and goals (35).
Major credit for this team’s success also has to go to goaltender Darcy Kuemper who has the league’s 6th best goals against per game rate (2.38) and tied for 2nd best save percentage (.926%).
To their credit, the Stars have been a scrappy team all season who have found ways to pull off wins with enough consistency to be in playoff position at this point in the season. Veteran center Joe Pavelski is the team’s leader in points (74) and assists (47).
If you’re going by the numbers, this is a tough one to imagine the Stars pulling off, but they aren’t going to be the ones with pressure on them. The Avs are going to be expected to beat this team handily, especially starting the series with home ice.
That said, the machine that is the Colorado Avalanche will likely wear down this Dallas squad in six games or fewer.
Next up it’s the Pacific Division leading Calgary Flames currently slated to face the #1 Wild Card team, the Nashville Predators.
These two have met only once this season, with Nashville pulling off a 3-2 overtime victory over the Flames back at the beginning of November. They’re going to meet twice more on April 19th and April 26th, so more can be determined about this matchup based on those games.
However, the Flames have been a formidable team all season long. Calgary has the lowest number of goals against in the west at 187 which is 2nd in the NHL only to the Carolina Hurricanes’ figure of 180.
The defense and goaltending on this squad has been excellent and netminder Jacob Markstrom has been a huge part of that.
On the offensive side, the Flames haven’t been too shabby either. Winger Johnny Gaudreau has easily been this team’s best skater as he leads them in points (101), assists (67) and plus/minus (55). Gaudreau has been everything to this Calgary team and he is tied for the 3rd most points in the league.
The Flames are usually good, but this team has a special feeling to it as the playoffs lie in wait. Sorry, Predators fans, but this is going to be a cakewalk for the Flames. Give it to Calgary in five games.
Next is the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues who are the respective #2 and 3 teams currently in the Central Division at the moment.
The Wild may be the higher seeded team right now, but St. Louis has had their number in the teams’ two meetings this season. The Blues have outscored the Wild 10 goals to 7 and are 2-0 with a final matchup to be played on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams sit at 98 points in the standings but the WIld have two more wins than the Blues. The margin in goals for per game is also razor thin between these squads as the Blues are 4th best in the league at 3.68 to the Wild’s 5th best rate of 3.64.
St. Louis’ goalie Villie Husso is top five in goals against per game and save percentage, giving St. Louis yet another edge.
This matchup is going to be a dogfight and home ice is a flip of a coin right now with a lot hinging on that final meeting tomorrow. The Wild have yet to prove that they can defeat their division rivals, but that’s exactly what the postseason is for.
Minnesota will take this series in a thrilling seven game series.
Finally it’s the Edmonton Oilers slated to face the Los Angeles Kings. These are the #2 and 3 teams in the Pacific Division and the season series belongs to Edmonton who’ve won three out of four matchups with LA.
Edmonton the two best skaters in points with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl who have 110 and 105, respectively. The Oilers have a four point edge on the Kings in the standings as both teams have suffered from poor defense and goaltending.
However, the clear advantage goes to Edmonton who have a +25 goal differential compared to LA whose number in that regard is an unimpressive -5.
The Oilers have 40 more points for and only 10 more points against as their ability to score with consistency has been far better than LA’s. The fact that they outscored the Kings by five goals in their last three matchups tells the tale of this one.
If they end up facing each other in the 1st round, give it to Edmonton in five games.
Western Conference Champion Prediction
It’s easy to just say that the Colorado Avalanche will win the west this season, but you have to remember that this is an unpredictable sport. Yes, the Avs will likely go far and are the team to beat in the entire league, but bettors will get much better value from another team in this conference.
The line for the Calgary Flames to win the Western Conference currently sits at +350. This seems like a much better wager than +150 for the Avs when you think about the lockdown defense and goaltending, coupled with Gaudreau’s brilliant play on offense.
It’ll be hard fought with the Avs, but the Calgary Flames are going to win the Western Conference this season and they’re frankly the only other team who have a shot.
If you are looking on how to properly play the betting game these playoffs, check out our betting guide on our site to get started.
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