Who would have thunk it? The Western Confernece Finals can begin now and its contestants are now set. LA KINGS vs PHOENIX COYOTES. That’s correct! There were four Central Division teams that finished the regular season with 100 or more points, and now all of those teams are hitting golf balls or playing for their country in the World Championships. Either way when the playoffs started just a few weeks ago, you could have made an argument that there would be at least one Central Division team would be playing for the Stanley Cup and at least one division team if not two division teams would be duking it out in the Western Conference Finals.
1. There are no patsies!!- How did Central Division teams pile up so many points? They all got to play the Columbus Blue Jackets 6 times in the regular season witch resulted in every team collecting 10 percent of their points! If you take away the red headed stepchild of the Central Division all the teams were in the 90 points just like everyone else in the playoffs except the Vancouver Canucks who were dominated by the Kings.
2. Goal Keeping- You can win a Stanley Cup with no offense and great goal keeping just ask the New Jersey Devils who rode Martin Brodeur to Stanley Cups and are trying to make one last run with the veteran net minder this season. It’s not that the Central Division goal keepers did not stand on their heads throughout the playoffs, no its worse their stats declined in the playoff compared to their regular season stats lets take a look
Regular Season Save %-.903 GAA 2.72
Playoffs- Save%-.897 GAA 2.58
Jimmy Howard– Detroit
Regular Season Save%-.920 GAA 2.13
Playoffs Save%-.888 GAA 2.64
Pekka Rinne– Nashville
Regular Season Save %-.929 GAA-2.39
Playoffs Save %-.920 GAA 2.07
Brian Elliot– St Louis
Regular Season Save %-.940 GAA 1.56
Playoffs Save %-.904 GAA 2.37
So when the playoff light shined brightest the guys between the pipes didn’t bring their Super A game. Rinne was closest to his regular season stats, but the other two goalies fell short of the regular season stats and stellar play, while Crawford played well throughout the playoffs until imploding when overtime sessions began. The key to a successful playoff run is to ride a hot goaltender to the finish unless your team has an unbelievable offense that can counter act sub par goal tending. Neither Nashville Predators or St Louis Blues had the offensive firepower to withstand sub par performances by their goal keeping.
3. The System. Nashville and St Louis are big system teams and they ran up against teams that played similar type hockey which usually in sports is not a good recipe for winning unless you can out system the other team. The Central Division teams did not in the end have the better system or the better backstop to anchor the system come playoff time.
4. Nobody got hot. Momentum is a strange thing sometimes. It felt like LA KINGS got hot the first night of the playoffs and have not cooled off yet. Same thing for the Phoenix Coyotes they took the first OT game of the playoffs against our Chicago Blackhawks ,and have rode that momentum right through to the Western Conference Finals. One teams magic carpet ride will end before the Stanley Cup Finals, and momentum will really be on the team that wins back entering the final series for the Cup
Is it safe to say that the Central Division playoff runs have been a major disappointments? YES!!! Four teams in one division with 100 points and none make it past the 2nd round! Was the Central Division overrated?? Maybe Most teams during a 82 game regular season don’t like to grind it out against defensive teams, but they do bring it for playoff runs. Will all 4 teams be able to return to same regular season heights next year? probably not it’s difficult to get to 100 points in a season consistently so there is no reason to believe this will happen again next year.
Just as useless as Vancouver Canucks winning the President’s Cup, and not winning a playoff series let alone the Stanley Cup is… so too is the big bad Central Division with its quadruple 100 point teams that cannot make it to the Western Conference finals. Back to the drawing board!!!