In the Eastern Conference, it looks like the field has been narrowed down to the eight teams we are likely to see. In the Western Conference, that’s another story.


While the time is running out, there are still 10 teams with a legitimate shot at making the postseason in the West. Here’s a look at which teams are for real this season and which are going to be playing XBOX over the summer:

Vancouver Canucks

Like: Without a doubt, they are the most complete team in the NHL, which is why they will likely be the Presidents’ Trophy winners. They are the only team in the NHL to hit the 50-win mark and for passionate Canadian hockey fans, this will be their country’s best chance to win a Stanley Cup in the last five years.

Dislike: The Vancouver Canucks have two major concerns; injuries and pedigree. Regarding injuries, the blue line has been hit hard with injuries to Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis. Up front, pesky forward Manny Malhotra is out for the season. Those are all key losses that the Canucks may not be able to withstand. Also, the Canucks don’t have that killer instinct or the experience of doing it before. They tend to disappoint in the playoffs and while this is the best edition of them that we’ve seen, they need to buck their underachieving trends in the postseason.

Niklas LidstromDetroit Red Wings

Like: As per usual, the Detroit Red Wings are a contender. When healthy, they have a scary amount of depth up front with 12 players notching at least 30 points this season. With head coach Mike Babcock and a very experienced roster, they are going to be a threat to win it all once the second season starts.

Dislike: They haven’t played well at home in the second half of the season, which is a tad surprising given how dominant they usually are at Joe Louis Arena. Injuries have also hampered them but they have managed to stay afloat in the regular season. In the postseason, it could sink them. Also, how much do you trust goaltender Jimmy Howard in the playoffs?

San Jose Sharks

Like: The snap-judge reaction is to write this team off given how badly they’ve underachieved in the postseason the last few years and how ugly their start to the season was, but be careful in crossing them off the list. They are 23-4-4 in their last 29 and roll into the playoffs with plenty of momentum. Goaltender Anti Niemi is hot and their offense is in rhythm.

Dislike: Why trust a team that has consistently fallen flat on their face in the postseason? The San Jose Sharks have had better teams than this version, which has played Jekyll-Hyde all season long. Will they revert back to the team that looked horrible to start the season or will they continue to play like they have in the last two months?

Phoenix Coyotes

Like: They are an underrated, overlooked team in the Western Conference. They have won eight of their last 11 games and when goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is on his game as he has been recently, they can play with anyone in the NHL. Last year, they were a surprise playoff participant. This year, they have some experience under their belt and have raised the bar on their expectations.

Dislike: If the playoffs were to start today, their goal differential would be the second worst among the eight playoff teams. They are always competitive but they tend to squeak by in their wins. Bryzgalov needs to stand on his head for them to win two rounds and the greater likelihood is a well-rounded team with more offensive firepower takes them out before then. They are only 23-19 against winning teams this season.

Los Angeles Kings

Like: All they seemed to lack this season was some more goal scoring and they seemed to address that need with the acquisition of forward Dustin Penner. Management made the move and sent a clear message to the players: we’re ready to make a run. This is another underrated West Coast team with solid defense and stellar goaltending. They’ve allowed just 181 goals this season, which is the second fewest in the conference. The question is will they get the goal scoring?

Dislike: And the answer to that question right now is likely a ‘no’. The LA Kings just lost their leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, to a broken ankle that will keep him out four-to-six weeks. That’s on top of the loss of Justin Williams, who is also out for the next little while with a shoulder injury. They might have enough scoring to get by in Round One but they won’t last much longer than that unless they find a way to score without two key cogs.

Nashville Predators

Like: As head coach Barry Trotz put it, they have been playing playoff hockey for over a month now. If that’s how they are going to play, it could be a good omen. They’ve won six straight, nine of 10 and are 10-2-2 in their last 14. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is quietly making a run at the Vezina Trophy and with a GAA of 2.10, no opponent wants to see him in the first round.

Dislike: The Preds are just 19-17-3 on the road this season and considering they would be a six-seed if the playoffs started today, they are going to be fighting uphill to win any series. They’re still viewed as a little brother in the conference and they always will be until they accomplish something. Sure, they can spar with Phoenix, Los Angeles or Anaheim, but nobody really believes they can knock off Vancouver and Detroit – or possibly both – in a serious playoff run.

Anaheim DucksAnaheim Ducks

Like: If Jonas Hiller is healthy enough to backstop this team in the playoffs, they could be a surprisingly tough team to defeat. Their top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan is among the best in the NHL. This is a team with some experience and good head coach, so don’t put anything past them. The only reason that this team isn’t higher in the standings has been shoddy goaltending, mostly when Hiller has been out dealing with his dizziness. If he can steady the situation between the pipes, the Ducks could surprise.

Dislike: How healthy is Hiller? The Anaheim Ducks All-Star goaltender is getting closer to his return but he returned once and quickly went back to resting as his dizziness resurfaced. On the scoring front, while they do have Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu on their second line, many people wonder how much depth this team really has.

Chicago Blackhawks

Like: These are the Stanley Cup Champions and they should qualify for the postseason to defend their crown. There’s plenty of weaponry with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, which is why the Chicago Blackhawks have scored the third most goals in the NHL. Experience, coaching and pedigree are all on their side. They’ve done this before.

Dislike: With just 90 points, they might not even make the playoffs. The Blackhawks have played better in the second half of the season but they still tend to be vulnerable between the pipes when rookie goaltender Corey Crawford goes through his rough patches. He’s never been in the postseason before and he could be a weak link. Overall, this just isn’t the same team as last year. The magic is gone and so are a number of key contributors.

Jerome IginlaCalgary Flames

Like: They have been extremely valiant over the second half of the season. Since starting the year 18-20-5, the Calgary Flames are 19-8-6. While it first looked like they were a veteran team that had expired, they have played like a cohesive, experienced unit and picked themselves out of the dumps.

Dislike: A horrible start to the season is really coming back to haunt them. While the Flames have been valiant, they still tend to win with smoke and mirrors. There aren’t many forwards that can be relied upon for scoring on a nightly basis other than Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has been shaky. Even if they manage to squeak into the playoffs, their stay won’t be very long.

Dallas Stars

Like: The Dallas Stars have a slightly better chance of making the playoffs than the Flames as they have two extra games in hand. While most pundits expected them to trade away Brad Richards at the trade deadline and just fold down the tent, the Stars kept their main man and have been scratching and clawing their way to the playoffs. They don’t make it pretty,

Dislike: They just don’t have it. Their penalty kill ranks 23rd, their power play ranks 14th and their goaltending has been up-and-down this season. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has just one win in his last six outings. They aren’t overwhelmingly good in any one particular area and they’ll be exposed come playoff time when only the elite teams remain.