Detroit Red Wings: Where Do They Land in the Western Conference Seeding?
It's nearing the end of February and the NHL Trade deadline is almost upon us. As February ends and March begins, the primary focus shifts solely on the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
March is when high-seeding teams begin considering what players they should rest and when, and playoff-bubble teams begin to push to win every game and play as if it already was the playoffs.
Now, we have a pretty good idea of who will make the playoffs and who won't, but there are still lower seeds that need to be decided, so let's look at the eight Western Conference Playoff teams for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Missed the Cut
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While the Flames are currently 5-2-3 in their last 10 games, which is considerably better than the other teams resting on the playoff bubble, don't expect those numbers to keep up amongst slumping teams as March begins to heat up.
Unfortunately for the Flames, they'll just miss the playoff cut.
Another team to keep an eye on is the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim is recently heating up and has won six of their past ten games.
The Ducks look much better as a unit than they did earlier in the year, but one has to question whether or not they've showed up too late with too big of a deficit to make up.
8. Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes are once again hitting the fringe of the playoffs. They've got a decent team, but it's probably not enough to win them the Pacific division.
Bigger questions in Phoenix may be hindering the team, because if a buyer isn't found this will likely be their last season in the desert. If that happens, most players will be looking for new homes, which could obviously be a locker room distraction.
Current play may turn out to prove this prediction wrong, as the Coyotes are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, but the chances of that kind of performance keeping up is unlikely, and therefore the Coyotes will sit in at eighth place.
7. San Jose Sharks
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For the first time in a long time, the San Jose Sharks won't be on top of the Pacific Division.
Currently, the Sharks are hitting a rough skid, just recently busting a slump that lasted four games. Obviously this shouldn't continue for a long duration, but looking at some of the teams that San Jose has to play to finish off the season, they're going to find games difficult to win.
For reasons unknown, the Sharks don't seem to be the same team they've been in recent years. Perhaps it has something to do with dropping Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi and picking up Marty Havlat, or maybe it's because the Sharks let Ian White go in free agency despite picking up the services of Brent Burns.
Injuries will be a pain in the neck for the Sharks too, as tough defender Douglas Murray is currently out of action with a fractured adam's apple. That just sounds painful.
6. Chicago Blackhawks
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After losing a whopping nine games in a row, the Blackhawks seem to be bouncing back from their gigantic slump. They're currently on a four-game winning streak, and just defeated their archrival, the Detroit Red Wings, even if it was an awful game for both teams.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they may have lost too much ground to surpass the Nashville Predators for the fifth spot, and the idea of the Hawks catching the Red Wings or even the Blues is a stretch of reality.
The sixth seed may not be a bad option for the Hawks though. The fourth and fifth seeds will almost certainly be a Central battle that may be more difficult than beating the winner of the Pacific division.
Overall, if the Hawks land in sixth, it may be a blessing. If the Kings heat up and San Jose lands in seventh, the sixth seed might be the best spot in the West for the first round of the playoffs.
5. Nashville Predators
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In the crapshoot for home-ice advantage in an almost certain duel amongst some combination of Central Division rivals, the Nashville Predators will land just out of fourth in the Western Conference.
The biggest thing that will effect where the Predators go from here on out is the trade deadline. If they add forward depth at the deadline, they could very well resign one or both of Ryan Suter or Shea Weber and put the locker room at some sort of ease.
On the other hand, they could do nothing and have a dilemma on their hands, or they could end up trading Suter at the deadline.
Nonetheless, the Predators are a good defensive team and have a great goaltender, but with contractual issues, they'll be interesting to watch at the deadline and beyond.
4. St. Louis Blues
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If Ken Hitchcock isn't the far-and-away Jack Adams winner this season, there's something seriously wrong with voters. The NHL shouldn't even bother naming two other nominees for the award.
Hitchcock was brought in early in November, when the Blues were an under .500 team, and since he's taken control St. Louis is in contention for the league-best Central Division.
St. Louis also has two great goalies sharing time in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Between the both of them, Elliott and Halak have a total of 12 shutouts, which is outstanding. No wonder the Blues are the top defensive team in the league.
One could question whether or not the Blues can legitimately contend for the Cup, but if one thing is for sure, it's that the Blues had better not be taken lightly when the playoffs come around.
3. Los Angeles Kings
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Yes, that's right, miraculously enough, the L.A. Kings will manage to make the playoffs, and they'll actually win the Pacific Division.
The Kings may be the scariest team in a low seed at this point in the season since the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers. Funny how they compare to the Flyers.
To put it this way, the Kings have an offense featuring Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Justin Williams. Somehow, they're 30th in the league in goal scoring.
If you think that's bad, you're absolutely right. It's terrible, and yet the Kings have the potential to be much better. Now, the Kings have just made a trade for Jeff Carter in the hopes to spark their offense.
If the team catches fire, the entire Western Conference had better watch out for a team that will be ready to blow them away. To counteract their poor offense, the Kings' blue line is ranked third in the league. Maybe that has to do with Jonathan Quick, but regardless, if they're not allowing goals and their offense gets a spark, look out.
2. Detroit Red Wings
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In what seems to be a blessing in disguise, the Red Wings may have solved the issue that raised the most questions as to whether or not they could make a deep playoff run.
That question was in their back-up goaltending. Anybody who watched Ty Conklin play this year knew that if Jimmy Howard were to go down with an injury in the playoffs, the Wings were done.
That's not so anymore. After Jimmy Howard sat for nearly three weeks with a broken finger, AHL netminder Joey MacDonald came in to save the day, going 6-1-0 in Howard's absence and thus, taking Ty Conklin's job.
And yet as one problem disappears another comes to light. Pavel Datsyuk suddenly went on the IR for a minor knee surgery, and although he'll only be gone for a few weeks, the injury has exposed some major issues for the Wings.
In a game against Chicago, Detroit just looked awful in every aspect of the game, and against Vancouver, while they scored three goals, all three came from their third line. If Detroit's top lines can't perform without Datsyuk, they could be in serious trouble if something were to happen to him.
Nonetheless, with the best home performance by far, and the majority of their remaining games at home, the Red Wings will win the Central division.
Like it? Check who they would play according to these predictions.
1. Vancouver Canucks
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The 2011 Stanley Cup runner-ups started out the season with performances as hard to watch as the Vancouver riots themselves.
No more. The Canucks are just one point out of the conference lead with a game in hand over the Red Wings.
The Conference championship will be a foot race between the two teams, and possibly even the St. Louis Blues, but one has to think that being the sole contender in their division, the Canucks will probably come out on top.
It will be interesting to see if Vancouver makes any move at the trade deadline, considering they have Cory Schneider riding the bench even though he's quite capable of being a starting netminder.
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Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings. For more coverage you can read his recent articles here: