PART 2: Who’s Who In The Western Conference: Performers and Pretenders

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Many have argued that the Western Conference is the far superior half of the NHL. Just two weeks into the 2013-14 season, stats are beginning to show it: The current playoff threshold in the West is 109 points; In the Eastern Conference, only 89. With so many teams off to a solid start, Blackhawk Up takes a look at what teams are really there to stay, and who’s just enjoying the moment while it lasts.

For a link to Part One, click here. 

Stay tuned for the third and final edition, Sunday, October 20th.

Phoenix Coyotes

Oct 15, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal as Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (6) reacts during the second period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 4-2-1

Season Summary So Far: In 2013, a follow-up to a breakout season wasn’t successful. The Coyotes received word in the off-season that they would remain in Arizona for another 5 seasons, so with a move not on their mind, they set out. After opening their season at home with a win, the Coyotes set out on a five-game road trip, losing the first two games. After that, they rebounded, and have picked up 7 out of 8 points in their last 4 games. Off-season acquisition Mike Ribero is playing great, and Mike Smith is solid in goal.

Strengths: Ability to score lots of goals, gritty, team chemistry very high. Extremely experienced coach, and underrated goaltender.

Weaknesses: No goaltending depth, inconsistent management, aging defensive core.

The Real Deal?: I wouldn’t bet on it. Two lines can only take a team so far, and once injuries start happening, look out. Heaven forbid Mike Smith taking a flop and hurting himself, because the departure of Jason LaBarbera left the goaltending responsibility squarely on his shoulders. The Coyotes have enough talent to be a playoff team, but they’re going to need some additions over the course of this year if they want to get past the first round.

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