November 1, 2011

Canadian Teams are heating up to end October ! Part 2:Western Conference

I already wrote about all of the Eastern Conference teams, now we will focus on the Western teams. Last year the Canucks made it to the Stanley cup final, but Edmonton finished dead last getting the second consecutive top pick in the draft. With Calgary finishing 10th last year, and making no key acquisitions in the offseason it didn’t seem like Canada would have much to cheer about in the West this year either. The one thing the West did have to look forward to, was that it was very believable that a Canadian team would be leading a division, although you might be surprised which team is holding the top spot!

Edmonton Oilers: 11 GP, 7-2-2, 16 points. 3rd in the West.
Edmonton after starting the year off well at 2-2-2, have been simply lights out since, as they have won 5 straight games. What makes those wins even more impressive is who they have come against, Edmonton has beaten the Rangers, Canucks, Capitals, Avalanche, and Blues. The Oilers have went to the annual whipping boys, to one of the toughest teams to play in the league. In those last 5 games the Oilers haven’t allowed more than 2 goals in any game. When you think of Edmonton, you think of offense due to all of the high-profile forwards they have drafted. The knock on them was always defense and goaltending. Yet this year, the strength for the Oilers has been come from their apparent Achilles heel. They have allowed only 18 goals in 11 games, by far a league best! In fact, they have allowed more than 2 goals only twice all year, both games coming against Vancouver. The Oilers may not be the best offensive team so far this year, but the top-end talent on this team has been very consistent. #1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been incredible so far this year, scoring 5 goals, and putting up 11 points with a +4 rating in his first 11 games. RNH essentially has left the Oilers no choice but to keep him in the pros. The rest of the kid-line has been great as well as Eberle had 10 points, and Hall has 9. Judging from that you would assume it was youth that was carrying this team, however, it is the balance between the young players, and the vets that has caused this change. Veteran Ryan Smyth has been a huge addition to this team with his 5 goals and 10 points, and has been a great example for all of the young guns to look upto. But the real key to this turnaround for the Oilers, has been the renaissance of Khabibulin. The “Bulin Wall” has been out of this world so far! Going 0-5-2 so far this year, and posting a league best 1.12 GAA, and a .960 save%. Those numbers are incredible! He has allowed 1 or less goals in 5 out of his 7 games, and has still yet to give up more than 2 goals despite having 30+ shots in the majority of those games. Edmonton is also thriving on it’s special teams, as their powerplay is ranked 12th (20.8%) and the penalty kill is ranked 4th (89.1%). The only reason for concern with Edmonton is the fact that they have gotten no secondary scoring as of yet, as they have 6 players with more than 7 points, but only 8 players with more than 1 point! They will need more balanced scoring to keep this recent run of success up, but a promising stat is the fact that they have lost only 1 game by more than 1 goal, and that was the 1st game of the season!

Vancouver Canucks: 11 GP, 5-5-1, 11 points. 10th in the West.
The Canucks have clearly been suffering from what many people call the Stanley Cup hangover, as they were off to a pretty horrible start. The slow start isn’t due to the offense, it is due to the fact that they are giving up 3 goals per game. Luongo is off to yet another slow start, as he is 3-3-1, has a 3.54 GAA, and a shockingly low .869 save & so far. These are definitely not the numbers you would expect from Luongo, but he is a perennial slow-starter so Canucks fans shouldn’t worry too much. It shouldn’t be long before he returns to the form of last year when he put up a 2.11 GAA, a .928 save% , and had 23 more wins than losses! You don’t put those kind of numbers up by fluke. The Sedins have been great with 4 goals and 13 points each. Salo and Edler have been very dangerous from the blueline with 17 points and a +9 rating combined. When you consider the fact that Kesler hasn’t completely shown up this year since returning from injury, and the trade for Booth hasn’t paid dividends yet. But Kesler and Booth are too talented of players to not soon find some chemistry together and begin to produce. One bright spot for the Canucks is that Luongo has won 2 of his last 3 starts, one including a very big win against the very dangerous Washington Capitals. The win wasn’t due to the goaltending of Luongo as he let in 4 goals, but scoring 7 goals against Washington is a very good sign that the Canucks may be getting on track. Despite the slow start for the Canucks, I would be shocked if we didn’t see Vancouver in the playoffs fighting for a shot at the cup when it comes to the end of the year.

Calgary Flames: 9 GP, 4-4-1, 9 points. 14ht in the West.
Calgary has not looked good at all this year. That is most evident when you look at team leader Jarome Iginla. This season Igina has only 2 goals and 4 points in 9 games, while posting a -3 rating. What’s even scarier is that he has been held off of the scoresheet in 6 out of 9 games. Iginla hasn’t had under 67 points in any season in the last decade, and when you look at his current stats he is only on pace to have 36 points this year! Do I think he will stay that bad all year? Absolutely not. Especially not when you look at how he started off last year. Last season, Iginla was pointless in 10 out of his 1st 15 games! But he then got points in 52 of his last 67, to finish with a total of 86 points on the year! So he should definitely turn it around soon, he is too talented, and plays too hard not to. It’s not all doom and gloom for Calgary’s forwards is Tanguay has 8 points, and Jokinen has added 7. The problem with the Flames is the other 3 lines…as only 2 players on the team have more than 5 points! The Flames have had a lot of trouble when it comes to scoring this year. They haven’t had trouble in between the pipes however, as Kiprusoff has allowed only 2.02 goals per game, and has a .930 save%. Kipper has done his best to keep the Flames in it so far this year, now it is the offenses turn to get it going and get them back into contention. With 2 wins in a row vs the Avs and the Blues, things seem to be on the right track for the Flames. They are now back at .500 and with a few games in hand on teams ahead, will have a chance to gain some ground in the next few games.

It may seem like the Western Canadian teams aren’t doing too great, but Edmonton couldn’t be any better right now, and Vancouver & Calgary seem to be getting on the right track, and will definitely finish higher than they are in the standings right now. After only 2 Canadian teams making the playoffs last year, it looks like Canada will have a much more successful year this season. Canada currently has 3 playoff teams, all of which missed the playoffs last year. And with both Montreal and Vancouver not far behind, there could soon be 5 Canadian teams in the playoffs. We will have to wait and see, but it’s looking good so far, and every team has given their fans reasons to have hope in the past few games!

Grant Robinson (@thesportsgrind)

No comments:

Post a Comment