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.