As we head into the final weekend of play before the Christmas break, the log jam at the top of the Western Conference standings is astounding. Seven teams are within three points of the conference leading San Jose Sharks.
For comparison purposes, the tightest bunch in the Eastern Conference involves six teams within two points of the ninth place New York Rangers. Last season we saw tight races with several teams trading places in the standings daily, but it was always in the middle range of the standings with teams fighting for playoff berths.
To have this many teams within a win and an overtime loss of the conference lead this late into the season is probably unprecedented. Another impressive figure is that until the Ducks lost to the Sharks in late action last night, every team in the West was at .500 or above.
The lopsided nature of the two divisions is best seen in the Western Conference's dominance over the East this season with the West sporting a 76-39-16 record against the Eastern Conference teams.
Despite the Edmonton Oilers' 3-5-1 record against Eastern Conference teams, the Northwest Division is an astounding 27-9-6 against the East. If you look at the combined record of the top seven teams in the West you find a 32-14-4 advantage.
On the flip side, if you look at the Eastern Conference team's record against the West, only six teams, led by Buffalo at 6-0-0, have a winning record against the West.
If the Western Conference teams continue to dominate the East for the rest of the season and the rate of three point games continues to hover near 30% of games played, there is no reason to believe that the mad chase for the top seed in the West won't continue until late in the season.
For coaches and fans in the West, it may be time to stock up on a good supply of stomach medicine because it will be needed.
Predators - Oilers Note...
After sleeping on last night's big win, I am more impressed with what was accomplished in the big turn around after the time out when the Preds went down 2-0.
For one of the first times this year, Barry Trotz was able to draw a line in the dirt during a period and get the Preds shifted into a different gear. We have seen similar shifts between periods but I don't recall one that was this abrupt and almost instantaneous.
If the Predators have truly meshed as a team to where they can find the needed new level in the middle of a period, then an extended Stanley Cup run is not out of the question.
At the end of the season if the playoff race is close, this will be a game that we may look back to as a turning point in the season and a win that will set the stage for the extended six of seven road game streak that the Preds are entering.
On another side note, since I took a great leap of faith and placed a 60-1 bet on the Preds to win the cup at a time when they were 3-6-1 they have responded with a 18-5-2 record. I am enjoying every minute of the run and enjoy seeing my betting slip taped to the mirror every day.
Predators - Oilers Recaps...
Highlights from NHL.com
Here is the link to our game story from last night.
The Tennessean has the AP Story since they grounded John Glennon for a few days. John Glennon does have his post game blog at Inside Predators.
Jim Diamond has his game story at the Examiner.
The Pred bloggers filing game stories include Dirk the Forechecker, Brandon Felder, What the Puck, Mark at The View From 111, Fan Huddle, and See Puck City.
The other side of the game story comes from of the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun.
In Pred Nation...
Forechecker reports that George Plaster claims that resolution is near in the Preds-Sommet skirmish that will avoid a name change.
Point 2 Point has a feature on Ryan Jones.
Ryan at the RLD stresses the importance of the Predators finishing the year on a good note.
Preds101 invites questions from readers that they want answers to.
Around the NHL...
Inconsistency strikes again as David Koci was not suspended for his hit on Mike Green. Dater has the opinion.
USA Today had an article about Russian players passing on playing in the NHL.
Gary Bettman answers a few questions from the Board of Governors meeting.
Interesting article from Motown Wings as to who stays and who goes when their laundry list of injured players return.
Since there is no end to top 10 lists, here is the THN list of top ten Junior players ever.
We've seen several suggestions for future Winter Classic sites. Here's one from HockeyInsights that moves further south than we have seen.
Bad Trades? Puck Daddy has a top 10 of the decade. Atlanta and the Islanders seem to be good at this.
Finally, here is a video that a guy took on his dirt bike at Crystal Geyser, Utah. The terrain looks like a moonscape similar to the one in the Bridgestone commercial where the astronauts get their tires stolen while they are bouncing around the moon picking up rocks.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass