Monday, March 15, 2010
Inside - Pacific Division
By: Jonathan Kovacs
If you told me that the Coyotes and Kings were the 4 and 5 seeds in the Western conference at this time, I would have called you crazy. Both teams were coming off disappointing season's in 08-09, ending with 79 points respectively. However, the future was bright for these two young teams, and now, their stars are shining.
For the Coyotes, the acquisition of Wojtek Wolski, at the trade deadline, should help them as they head into the playoffs. He is only 24, has great puck control and knows where his teammates are, what more could you ask for? There aren't any "superstars" on the Yotes' roster, but they have 5 forwards that are projected to have 20+ goal seasons, Radim Vrbata has netted 21 so far in the campaign. He has really turned it on in this season, and has been welcomed back in open arms and his play has re-assured his teammates and fan base.
The Kings are looking to be a real threat in the playoffs this year. They have 7 forwards with 36 points or more. The 20 year-old Olympian, Drew Doughty, who I predict will win multiple Norris Trophies in his career, has 51 points already, and is a +17. Kings goaltender, Jonathan Quick has been playing exceptionally well this season, tying a league-high with 37 wins. I feel the Kings can really make it far into the playoffs, possibly to the conference finals. A lot of the pressure will be riding in Quick, as in many playoff series, goal-tending is the key to success.
Sitting atop the Pacific Division, is the San Jose Sharks. Aruguably the best team in the league this season, and the one of the top scoring lines, consisting of, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau. These 3 stars have carried the bulk of the scoring this season, and will continue to do that as they march into the playoffs. The Sharks should get deep into the playoffs, they have the what it takes to win the cup, but over the past few years it seems like whenever the playoffs role around they play like rookies. Time is running out for them to make an impact in post-season play, and as of now, it is their best chance to win a cup.
The Stars and Ducks will not be making the playoffs this season. Not surprising that the Stars will miss the playoffs, it is time to move on with goaltender Marty Turco. He has been great in the past, but now he is just hurting the Stars in the long-run. If I were Joe Nieuwendyk, Stars GM, I would look for a goalie in the off-season. I do not think Kari Lehtonen is the answer. The future is bright for James Neal and Jamie Benn, two talented young wingers that are posting great numbers, Neal is his second season, and Benn who currently has 32 points in his rookie season.
Many people are surprised, including myself on the Anaheim Ducks' performance this season. I look at their roster and I see all of their talent, yet their record is far from good. For the most part, they have been a healthy team, and their top 6 forwards are all producing. Jonas Hiller has been average this season, he will only get better. This has just been an off year for them, they only had one key departure which was Chris Pronger, but other than that the core is still there.
Wednesday I will be posting the Northwest Division "Inside", with 2 teams in the playoffs and 1 team clinging to their playoff hopes.