Of the two conferences in the NHL, the eastern conference has to be the best of the best right now. Every team in playoff contention has a real chance at winning the Stanley Cup on paper, and when it comes to making big additions for the deadline, the eastern teams are part of a lot of the discussions.
Of the east and west, six of the ten top teams in the league right now reside in the east. Even crazier, of those top ten teams, the top six based on points all are from the east. Those teams are the Bruins, Hurricanes, Devils, Lightning, Leafs and Rangers.
All six of those teams have legitimate chances at winning the cup, and all six are going to be bringing in a lot of players near the deadline that they believe can help them win.
The eastern conference has, across the board, kicked the western’s butt this season. Only five teams in the east have lost ten or more games in regulation against the west. On the flip side, 11 western conference teams have lost ten or more games in regulation against eastern conference opponents.
Sure, you might think that only teams like Chicago, Vancouver or Anaheim make up those ten, but that list also includes Winnipeg, Seattle and Los Angeles, three of the best teams around in the west.
So, with that in mind, you might be wondering why the eastern conference still is not the best place to be right now in the NHL. It all has to do with the goal in mind for every team to win the Stanley Cup.
The Eastern Conference might be the best conference in the NHL, but the west could be the home of the Stanley Cup Champions.
The western conference playoff race is wide open. Obviously, you have some really good teams in the likes of Dallas, Vegas, Colorado and Edmonton, but overall this race is wide open with less talent compared to the east.
Winning the Stanley Cup involves winning four rounds of long best-of-seven series. Last season the Lightning, for the third year in a row, reached the Stanley Cup Final. To do so, they had to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a tough seven-game series. They then swept the Panthers and played a great up-and-coming Rangers team before reaching the final.
In doing so, the Lightning met a well-rested Colorado Avalanche who had swept two of their first three rounds. A similar result could occur this season.
Let’s take a look at any random team from the East. For this exercise, I will talk about the Devils. If the playoffs started today, they would face the Rangers. A Rangers team that has been playing some unbelievable hockey since adding Vladimir Tarasenko. The Devils would be playing one of the best goalies in the world, a previous Vezina Trophy winner in, Igor Shesterkin.
Assuming they got out of that battle, they would be facing the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, assuming there is no upset by a wild-card team. The Hurricanes need no introduction and are only poised to get better at the deadline. After that, they would be facing the likes of Tampa Bay, Toronto or Boston. This all comes before the Devils even reach the Stanley Cup Final.
This works for all of these top teams in the east. There is a big race for the Wild Card teams currently, and the matchups in the first three rounds of the playoffs are all going to be great matchups in themselves.
I am not trying to discredit the teams in the western conference, but there is no denying there is a lot of star power in the east.
The team that does push and claw their way to the Stanley Cup Final from the east is going to be matched up with a team that potentially is going to be a lot more rested after a month of hockey. It happened last year with the Avalanche and Lightning, and it could happen again this season between whoever finds themselves on the top of each conference.