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Contender or Pretender? The Top 8 Western Conference Seeds Breakdown

By Phil Bausk
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Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

3. Chicago Blackhawks

Not very different from last year’s Stanley Cup champions so far. Yes they have lost some games in regulation, but ultimately the formula is still in place. A shaky penalty kill and defense concern me but these were also concerns before the postseason last year. The difference this season? No Ray Emery to spell Corey Crawford. Nikolai Khabibulin is showing his age and if he is used as frequently as Emery was last season, there may be a dip in seeding heading into the playoffs. As long as they keep Crawford fresh and the team stays healthy, they are still the team to beat in the Western Conference.

Verdict: Contender (Like it would be anything else).

2. Colorado Avalanche

There isn’t a tougher team to score on than the Colorado Avalanche. That trait alone makes them a contender in my book. Jean-Sebatstien Guiguere has been lights out backing up early season Vezina trophy candidate Semyon Varlamov. I think they should be allowed to split the award, but that is why I don’t make these decisions. It looks as though Varlamov will be able to tiptoe around some legal issues  and this goalie tandem can easily carry any team to a Stanley Cup championship, let alone one as talented as the Avalanche. Let’s see how rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon develops over the season and if Matt Duchene can beat his career high of 27 goals.

Verdict: Contender

1.  Anaheim Ducks

Winning eight of your last nine is a great way to climb to the top of the conference rankings and after winning their fifth in a row on Sunday, the Ducks can quack all the way to the bank! (That doesn’t make sense, but bare with me) Their first place standing is a bit deceptive, as they are not the most talented team in the conference, but they certainly have what it takes to make a Cup run. Where they need to improve is on special teams, where they rank in the bottom part of the league in both power play and penalty kill efficiency. While Ryan Getzlaf and co are more than capable of putting pucks in to the back of the net, a defenseman had to step up to quarterback this power play group. There is still plenty of time to figure it out and as we all know, Ducks fly together!

Verdict: Contender