Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inside - NorthWest Division

By: Jonathan Kovacs

Heading into the playoffs, the NorthWest division boasts two teams that certainly are a threat to win it all this year.

Let's start off with the Vancouver Canucks. The Sedin twins have been tearing it up this season, Henrik has 94 points in only 70 games and has a team high +32. Daniel has been out for 18 games this season, but is still second on the team with 69 points. The Canucks have a above average powerplay, at 21% right now, which puts them 5th in the league, compared to their 17th ranked PP just a season ago. The addition of Mikael Samuelsson has provided the scoring depth that they needed, netting 30 goals already, which is a career high. However, the hotstreak came to an end, when he was injured on Tuesday with an upper body injury, and is expected to miss 2 to 3 weeks. The Canucks recall Michael Grabner from the Manitoba Moose to fill the void.

Next, we head to Colorado, where the young Avs, are playing surprisingly well this year and are looking to enter the post-season, bouncing back from a Western Conference low, 69 points in the 08-09 season. The Avalanche have a lot to be proud of. 1st year head coach, Joe Sacco has been performing his duties well. Heading into the season many thought it was former Avs legend Joe Sakic, but they were wrong, and some were speculating that he shouldn't have gotten the job, but those critics aren't complaining now. What is more impressive is how well the Avs are doing with playing 10 rookies throughout the season. Matt Duchene, Ryan O'reilly, and T.J. Galiardi have been phenomenal, combining for 105 points. The off-season signing of Craig Anderson is paying huge dividends, he is having a breakout year with 35 wins and 7 shutouts.

Over in Alberta, the Calgary Flames are in a intense playoff race for the 8th seed in the West. Jarome Iginla is once again leading the Flames in points as he has since the 01-02 season, that's consistency to say the least. The big trade with Toronto before the deadline is working out pretty well for Calgary. The got some decent forwards, that they needed. Calgary has struggled to score all throughout the season, currently sitting 28th in goals per game. At this rate, they will not make the playoffs. And if for some miracle they do, they won't make it out of the first round.

It doesn't look like the Minnesota Wild will make the playoffs this season. Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom hasn't been as nearly as good as he was at this time last season. Their defense has been shaky and they just don't seem to be playing as well as they were before. Acquiring Cam Barker was good, he is a solid defenseman that can bring some offensive ability as well. Their forwards aren't producing enough offense to be a competitive playoff team, 21 year old James Sheppard has been playing horribly this season, playing in 52 games and only posting a dismal 5 points.

Sitting at the bottom of the league and division is the Edmonton Oilers. Simply put, the Oilers do not have any scoring depth. Dusting Penner and Sam Gagner supply the majority of the offense. Ryan Whitey, has been alright since being acquired from the Penguins. The Oilers have been plagued with injuries all season long. 4 starters have been injured for the season, including goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and Sheldon Souray. Looking at the injury report, their have been many players out for considerable amounts of time. With so many players getting injured, you just aren't going to win many games. For Oilers fans, this is a season to forget about, they will be happy to be a fan during draft day this summer.

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