2011 NHL Playoffs: Contrasting Styles by Conference

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIMay 1, 2011

Horace Greeley must have told NHL defences to "Go West, young man!"
Horace Greeley must have told NHL defences to "Go West, young man!"Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

14 periods of play in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, there have been a total of 10 goals scored. One second round game had that many goals in the East, which had 16 in six periods overall before this evening's contest.

Does this mean Western Conference teams cannot score like their Eastern Conference brethren, or that their defence is superior?

Three teams playing out west were in the top-six in scoring during the regular season: The Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings were the top two teams in goals scored average, and the San Jose Sharks were sixth. The Nashville Predators finished the regular season 21st, but led the league in offence during the first round of the playoffs.

Only the Philadelphia Flyers have shown that kind of scoring ability, finishing the regular season third and ranking sixth in the playoffs thus far.

Unfortunately for them, they are allowing the most goals per game of teams that advanced and thus cannot even settle on a goalie, having used three.

That being said, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Boston have all played pretty well defensively over the course of the playoffs. But a good deal of that had to do with their opposition.

Washington played the offensively-challenged New York Rangers in the first round. Tampa Bay played a Penguins team that was without its two best scorers. Boston played the second-lowest scoring team in the playoffs.

By contrast, the Predators are facing the top-scoring team in the league and have held them to a single goal in both games. The Sharks did the same to the prolific Red Wings, including a Game One that went into overtime, and managed just two goal in each game themselves.

The ability of the Sharks to win two close games over the veteran, accomplished Wings is the reason they must be considered the favourites to emerge from the Western Conference. The ability of those teams to shut down great offences and score key goals is what sets them apart and makes any team to emerge the favourite in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Eastern Conference team can only hope their opponent has too little left by June.