After last Saturday’s win over the Boston Bruins, the Nashville Predators have now played the top teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference. Boston currently has the best record in the NHL and a nine point lead over the second place New Jersey Devils. Barring a collapse, they should finish atop their division.
However, there is much debate about how competitive Boston would be in the tougher Western Conference. After the game Boston Coach Claude Julien said that he did not enjoy the Western Conference style of play, claiming that it was "a little more open".
After Monday’s 2-0 loss to Ottawa, the Predators record against Eastern opponents is 8-6-1 for the season. The overall record of the Western Conference versus the East this year is a fairly dominant 112-72-20. Only two Western teams, St. Louis and Anaheim, actually have a losing record against Eastern opponents.
After the Boston game several questions were posed as to who was the best team among Boston, in the East and Detroit and San Jose in the West.
Barry Trotz was fairly diplomatic in his response saying “You play the best from the East and from the West, you have to play at a higher level. Against Detroit (last week) we had way too many turnovers and were way too casual in some areas”. He further relayed, "Against the East, with unfamiliar opponents, you worry more on your own game and less on the opponent’s. Teams in the West probably make more adjustments against us”.
David Legwand was asked who was better between San Jose and Boston and replied, “San Jose might be a bit better, Boston is a good team that is missing a few guys”.
Pekka Rinne did a good job at avoiding a direct answer as to who was better, “I don’t know, I think today (versus Boston) we were a better team, but against San Jose and Detroit when we’ve been playing them, they were all over us. It’s hard to say, they are all really good teams”.
In direct meetings between the top teams San Jose defeated Boston handily by a 5-2 score in Boston on February tenth. Boston played Detroit in Boston on November 29th and won by a convincing 4-1 margin.
There is really no way to settle the matter until the Stanley Cup Finals but the discussion does make good fodder for talk shows as the season winds down.
The Nashville Predators will get another shot at one of the NHL’s top dogs when they play the Red Wings in Detroit tonight at 6:30 p.m. They currently are in 12th place with 57 points, five out of the last playoff position. They return home Thursday for the first half of a home and away with St. Louis.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald