Top four cream of the crop for East and West

Many hockey bloggers, fans and writers are aware of the fact that there’s a considerable gulf between the Western Conference and the East. Simply put, the West is a sturdier group even though they have to deal with more travel and other hurdles.

Still, I noticed something interesting when I was peering at each conference’s standings today: there is a clear division between the top four teams and the rest of the pack in both the West and the East. Let’s take a look at the seedings in a simplistic way to illustrate my point.

West top four: 1. Chicago (97 points); 2. Phoenix (97); 3. Vancouver (92); 4. San Jose (96). Next team(s): 5. Nashville (89); 6. Los Angeles (87).

East top four: 1. Washington (106); 2. Pittsburgh (98); 3. Buffalo (88); 4. New Jersey (88). Next team(s): Ottawa, Philadelphia and Montreal (79)

There are times when I feel like at least one of the top three in a conference gets there simply because they have a weak division to milk. That doesn’t really seem that way this year, even if Buffalo and Vancouver might be slightly less impressive than the fourth seeds in New Jersey and San Jose.

It could be that this scenario changes and there’s more playoff parity, but it’s been a while since there was a good chance that every single team with home ice advantage might also be the odds-on winner. Perhaps the “smart” teams are beginning to distance themselves from the herd now that the league has had a few years to adapt to the salary cap?

Feel free to share your feedback on this finding.

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    Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

    Connor Brown, Robin Lehner
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    They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

    The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

    In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

    The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

    Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

    The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

    McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.



    Chara ‘doubtful’ for game against rival Canadiens

    Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara
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    It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.

    Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

    Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.

    Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.

    “Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”

    Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: