The Vancouver Canucks have dominated the Northwest since the 2004-05 lockout with five first-place finishes and four consecutive division titles.
That streak could end in 2013. The Minnesota Wild are a legitimate threat in the division right now, and with their impressive core of young players at forward and on the blue line, this team is going to be a Western Conference contender for five to seven more years.
Since both of these teams have lost two in a row, the Edmonton Oilers have now entered the division title race with their five-game winning streak. They currently sit five points back of the Wild and Canucks, both of whom have 44 points.
|Place ||Team ||GP ||W ||L ||OT ||PTS
|1 ||Minnesota Wild |
|36 ||21 ||13 ||2 ||44
|2 ||Vancouver Canucks |
|36 ||19 ||11 ||6 ||44
|3 ||Edmonton Oilers |
|36 ||16 ||13 ||7 ||39
|4 ||Calgary Flames |
|35 ||13 ||18 ||4 ||30
|5 ||Colorado Avalanche |
|36 ||12 ||20 ||4 ||28
Even though the Oilers have made a nice run in the last two weeks, the division title race is between Minnesota and Vancouver.
Nine of the Wild's final 12 games are against teams in a playoff spot, or two points away from a postseason berth. Five of those matchups are home at the Xcel Energy Center, where Minnesota has a 13-4-1 record. The Wild have lost three of their last four games, but prior to that, they went on a seven-game win streak.
After making so many changes to their roster in the offseason, including trades, major free-agent signings and calling up top prospects, it was going to take some time for this Minnesota team to gel and develop chemistry, especially on the blue line. The Wild are finally playing as a cohesive unit, and the crispness of their passing and the effectiveness of their power play has really improved over the last month.
The Wild are playing their best hockey of the season right now, and after acquiring a top-line winger in Jason Pominville from the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, Minnesota has become one of the deepest and most well-balanced teams in the league.
Vancouver has a good team with plenty of playoff experience, but its offense is struggling (ranks 21st in goals scored) and the power play (ranked 29th) has been awful this season. The Canucks also have to finish the season against the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers in their final four games.
Minnesota is the favorite to win the Northwest Division for the first time since the 2007-08 season, but this will be a fascinating race. The Canucks will make the race competitive until the last week.
Key Game to Watch: Tuesday, April 9—Minnesota at Chicago