‘Sprint to the end’: Wild Western Conference still up for grabs
#Dash #Wild #Western #Convention #grabs
Nathan MacKinnon nonetheless sees a path to the highest.
Such is Western Convention life in 2022-23.
MacKinnon and his Colorado Avalanche — the reigning Stanley Cup champions pummeled by accidents within the first half of NHL the schedule — at the moment sit proper on the playoff cutline.
However in contrast to the East, the place the Boston Bruins have separated themselves from the pack, the West stays comparatively vast open with only a 10-point hole between the convention’s prime seed and the second wild-card spot eight rungs beneath.
“We will positively come out of the West once more,” MacKinnon mentioned throughout the NHL’s all-star festivities in South Florida. “We have to get some wholesome our bodies, however I really feel prefer it’s positively there for the taking.”
The Dallas Stars led the convention with 68 factors, three up on the Winnipeg Jets and 4 higher than the Vegas Golden Knights, heading into Wednesday’s motion.
On the different finish of the desk’s top-8, the Edmonton Oilers occupy the primary wild-card with 62 factors — 4 higher than Colorado and the Calgary Flames.
The Avalanche are additionally even with the Minnesota Wild for third within the Central Division behind Dallas and Winnipeg.
“An excellent dash to the tip,” Stars head coach Peter DeBoer predicted. “There’s plenty of groups — together with us — that actually have to search out one other degree.”
Edmonton captain Connor McDavid mentioned the wage cap ensures tight races yearly.
“That’s what the league desires,” mentioned the NHL’s general chief in objectives and factors. “They need parity. Properly, they positively acquired it within the West.
“Appears groups are occurring seven-game successful streaks, after which the subsequent week they’re shedding three and 4 in a row. It appears to be fairly wildly up and down.”
Vegas Golden head coach Bruce Cassidy’s membership endured a current 2-6-2 stretch to tumble down the Pacific Division standings following a torrid begin.
“It’s sport on,” he mentioned. “I don’t suppose you possibly can have a nasty stretch. We’re in a single proper now that we’ve set to work our manner out of. Nevertheless it’s good for hockey and it retains you in your toes.
“It’s in all probability extra regular for many groups to should play nicely down the stretch to get in.”
Dallas ahead Jason Robertson likened it to final season when the East’s top-8 seeds had been realistically set months earlier than the playoffs as a struggle all the way down to the wire waged within the West.
“Arduous-fought convention,” Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck added. “You’ve acquired to dig in.”
Boston is cemented on the prime of the Atlantic Division, whereas the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning seem set to as soon as once more meet within the first spherical of the playoffs. Within the Metropolitan Division, the Carolina Hurricanes have an honest cushion on the second-place New Jersey Devils, who’re comfortably within the No. 2 slot.
Boston, Carolina, New Jersey, Toronto and Tampa all have higher information than West-leading Dallas based mostly on factors share.
Calgary centre Nazem Kadri mentioned a West playoff race with all kinds of eventualities on the desk will make for appointment viewing.
“Probably the most enjoyable that manner,” he mentioned. “We haven’t even performed near our greatest. That’s a optimistic signal.”
Oilers centre Leo Draisaitl is on the lookout for his group to make a second-half push to create separation.
“You’d prefer to be the crew to nail that down slightly bit,” he mentioned. “It’s open, however I feel we’re gonna be the (one) that’s gonna shut it down.”
MacKinnon feels the identical about his championship-calibre group.
And as soon as the West’s is about, the street to the Stanley Cup last needs to be equally wide-open because the East’s heavyweights slug it out on the alternative aspect of the playoff bracket.
“We will really nonetheless win the West — by some means,” MacKinnon mentioned. “We get scorching, we may win it.”
CLOCK TICKING ON CROSBY, OVI
Like most of the gamers to share the ice with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals counterpart Alex Ovechkin throughout all-star week, MacKinnon made a degree to soak all of it in.
“At some point they received’t be right here,” he mentioned of Crosby, 35, and Ovechkin, 37. “These guys are the faces of our league … received’t be the identical once they’re gone.”
MARNER: OVI WILL PASS GRETZ
Toronto winger Mitch Marner views Ovechkin passing Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL purpose mark of 894 as inevitable.
The Russian sniper has discovered the again of the web 812 instances in his profession, together with 32 this season, to go away him simply 82 wanting The Nice One.
“I don’t see how he doesn’t catch him,” Marner mentioned. “What he’s carried out in his profession with goal-scoring has been phenomenal.”
KADRI CHIRPS MARNER
The ex-Toronto teammates caught up throughout all-star week and largely mentioned issues aside from hockey.
Kadri, nevertheless, nonetheless acquired in slightly dig, reminding Marner he received the Cup with Colorado final June earlier than signing with Calgary in free company.
“I earned it, didn’t I?” Kadri, who was traded by the Leafs to the Avalanche in 2019, mentioned with a smile. “I can remind whoever I would like.
“I at all times like to offer him a tough time.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Feb. 8, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton’s weekly NHL pocket book is printed each Wednesday.
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