Three of the top four Stanley Cup favorites reside in the Western Conference. As we head into the NHL’s Olympic freeze, let’s take a look back at some of the surprises and disappointments from what we’ve seen in the West:
Biggest Surprise Team: Colorado Avalanche
Odds To Win West: +600
The Avs have been the biggest surprise in the NHL this season for our NHL picks– not just in the West. They finished dead-last in the conference in 2013 but have made an ascent to the point where it’s very likely that they make the playoffs.
The 180-degree turnaround has been team-wide as the Avs scored 116 goals last season (second-fewest in the West) and allowed 152 (second-most). This year, they’ve allowed the sixth-fewest goals and scored the fifth-most. Turns out in the game of hockey, those two numbers are quite important and that’s why the Avs have morphed into a contender.
Best Team Overall: St. Louis Blues
Odds To Win West: +330
It might surprise you to see the Blues here but there are two things going in their favor over the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks: the Blues have been more consistent and the Blues have a bigger goal differential (+61).
The Blues look like they are ready to take that next step while the Blackhawks and Ducks have shown some chinks in the armor. The Ducks have hit a wall with losses in four of six while the Blackhawks have lost 11 of their last 18 games.
As of right now, the Blues are the team to beat in the West in my books.
Biggest Disappointment: Vancouver Canucks
Odds To Win West: +1500
The Canucks were hoping that the hiring of head coach John Tortorella could give this veteran team one last kick at the Stanley Cup can. Tortorella needed to get goaltender Roberto Luongo’s head screwed on straight first and all was supposed to be good. Well, Luongo is on pace to post his best GAA in three seasons yet this team is still a wreck as they’ve lost 16 of 20.
The Canucks window of opportunity is officially closed and if Tortorella can’t snap them out of their current slump soon (lost 15 of 19), he won’t last beyond this year.