Ever since Chicago reclaimed hockey supremacy back in 2010, the Western Conference has continued to evolve into hockey’s preliminary conference. The same cannot be said for the East. They on the other hand have appeared to take a noticeable step back from its business associate.
To the right of the Mississippi river there is a lot of disparity.
The playoff picture is far from completion; in fact the remaining few games on the season could make or break a teams season. Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit hold the unfortunate title of bubble teams. A crucial match up between Boston and Detroit tonight in Boston is shaping up to be must watch television. With a loss, Boston can plan their golf weekend early. With a win for Detroit, their incredible playoff streak will continue.
With all do respect to both teams, the chance that either of them will make a significant amount of noise in the big dance is minor.
That being said, who can you expect to make it out of the East and successfully match up with hockey’s superiority?
How about that city connected by three rivers?
Since their title in 2009, the Penguins have been massive underachievers. That’s right, Sidney Crosby resembles more of a Mike Modano than a Wayne Gretzky at the moment. In order for Pittsburgh to regain its footing, they need ‘Sid’ to be the superstar he has always been predicted to become. That, and for Fluery to cease letting everything under the sun in the net.
That’s not to say they can’t catch a conveniently well times hot streak, but that road travels through Washington and New York.
Lightning, as the saying goes, can’t strike in the same place twice correct?
Well the circus act that has been the Lightning’s season thus far has continued. Stamkos needs surgery to repair a blood clot in his arm and is expected to miss upwards of three months. Victor Hedman also suffered an upper body injury which could sideline him for the start of the playoffs. Hedman was the undisputed backbone of the Lightning last post season, so life without him will be difficult to say the least.
Don’t fret, they recently recalled Jonathan Drouin from the minors. For those who don’t know Drouin, wanted a trade from Tampa earlier in the season. His insubordination landed him in the minors, which he never reported to. Nice kid.
Regardless, Tampa didn’t have much of a choice: they needed to replace the massive gap Stamkos’ injury left behind. Drouin? He was the next best thing.
Florida, well isn’t this a pleasant surprise? For the first time since 2012 the Panthers are back in the playoffs. This time they have a beautiful nucleolus of young and veteran players who have played a ton of meaningful hockey. Roberto Luongo in the process also makes his return to the playoffs, and they’re going to need him. In order for Florida to advance, they need superb goal tending from a less than likely source. Luongo felt the extreme heat from playing in Vancouver, when he couldn’t withstand it they did away with him.
Life doesn’t offer very many chances to succeed a second time. He, has that.
Your safest bet? Washington.
If history truly is doomed to repeat itself then, well, history isn’t on Washington’s side. The last time they enjoyed this much success was 6 years ago: the same year they lost to the 8th seeded Montreal Canadians in 7 games. If the regular season ended today, the Capitals would be facing off against the 8th seeded Philadelphia Flyers.
Philly has been playing with a ton of purpose as of late, and it has helped propel them past Boston in the playoff race. However, Washington has always found a way to choke in the playoffs in historical fashion.
I’d love to sit here and tell you this is Washington’s year to take a cup home, but I can’t. But I can tell you that they’re the favorite to come out of the east.
While I’m not entirely convinced Washington can pull it off, I’m convinced they can end an annoying stigma. That being the West is far superior to the East, that gap is far more narrow than most would like to admit.