Blackhawks News

Contender or Pretender? The Top 8 Western Conference Seeds Breakdown

By Phil Bausk
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Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

6. St. Louis Blues

It is well documented how much I love the Blues this year, and their awesome jerseys in the photo above only make me yearn more for a Blues v. Blackhawks conference final. I truly love their goaltending capabilities with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, and come playoff time if one struggles, the other will be available to keep the Blues right on track. Alexander Steen is blossoming into a star, and their defensive depth is nearly unmatched. I do think they have a shot to win the whole thing, but the question remains as to who will score goals outside of Steen. They have until April to figure that one out.

Verdict: Contender

5. San Jose Sharks

This team is such a tease to its fans and to the general pro-hockey public. I like to think of them as the Canucks, but with cooler jerseys. Their core hasn’t changed drastically but the play of top pick Tomas Hertl adds more offense to an already potent lineup. There is no doubt that these Sharks are contenders this year, but can they get over the hump in the playoffs this year? Why is this year different as opposed to other years? Maybe they won’t have to face the Kings in the playoffs this season? They will advance to the conference semifinals, but anything beyond that is a toss-up.

Verdict: Contender

4. Phoenix  

They have trouble keeping pucks out of the net, but have no trouble returning the favor. However, the first part of that sentence is what worries me about this Coyotes team that is off to a tremendous start. As good as Mike Smith is in net, the team’s defense struggles, especially a man down. Too many penalties for a team that can’t stop anyone on the power play and until they do, the Coyotes are going to be very vulnerable in April. While they do have good balance in their offensive attack, they lack truly adept goal scorers outside of Shane Doan and Mike Ribeiro, who are no spring chickens. Age may catch up this team by March, and I can see them missing the playoffs.

Verdict: Pretender