New Poll: Which Western team has the best chance of making the playoffs?

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This past Sunday we asked the question: Which Eastern conference team currently sitting out of the playoff picture has the best chance of making it in come April? Tonight, we travel across the Mississippi and look at the chances of some Western teams that are currently on the outside looking in.

Click here to vote!

Ok, I just really wanted to say "travel across the Mississippi".

Nevertheless, the Western Conference playoff scene is just as interesting as the one in the East. But before we get to them, let's take a look at the results from the Eastern Conference.

It's interesting to note that most of the non-playoff teams in the East have games in hand over their direct competition in spots 6-7-8. Every team up up to the 13th spot is at most 4 points out of that coveted 8th spot. Even the Leafs in 14th place have an outside shot, with 41 points, 9 away from Montreal's and Ottawa's 50.

But despite how close the standings are, the winner of the poll is the same team that was in 9th place at the beginning of the poll, and the same team that's in 9th place tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers, garnering 45% of the vote. They almost doubled the votes of the second place team, the New York Islanders (27%). Further away in 3rd place were the Thrashers (14%), followed surprisingly by the Leafs (9%), and the Lightning (5%). The Florida Panthers, who always seem to hover around 9th spot when it's all said and done, did not receive a single vote.

The Flyers, who seem to have turned it around in recent games, were the obvious choice. But the Isles and the Thrashers are two young desperate teams may be able to sneak in there.

ONTO THE WEST

The west is another interesting team. With the emergence of the Kings, Coyotes, Preds and Avs as sudden contenders, a whopping four teams that were in the playoffs last year are on the outside looking in tonight.

And that makes this vote VERY interesting. We know a lot of these teams can get the job done even if they've had difficulties in the first half of the season. Who is seasoned enough to make a dash into the post-season by April?

9. The Detroit Red Wings - 54 points in 46 games, 24-16-6.

What? The Red Wings are in NINTH place? The team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago and made the finals again last year? I had to check several places to make sure this was correct. Sure, the Wings have had injury woes. Franzen, Williams, Holmstrom, Kronwall, Lilja, Zetterberg, Cleary, Helm, Filpulla and others have all missed significant time due to injuries. Sure, their goaltending isn't all that great. Sure, their team is getting older. Sure, they've played well into June two years in a row... but they're the Red Wings damnit!

And that fact gives me hope that they'll be able to turn it around. Nevertheless, if through 46 games they haven't been able to hold onto a playoff spot, you have to wonder whether they can do it over the next 35 games, even if they're only one point out of the playoffs at the moment.

10. The Minnesota Wild - 51 points in 48 games, 24-21-3.

The Minnesota Wild started off the season in dead last, and held onto that spot for at least a month. Since then, a new life has been breathed into Minnesota, working their way up to 10th place and only 4 points out of the playoffs. 5-5-0 in their last 10 and a great 16-6-1 record in their own arena, you have to give the Wild a chance, especially with a lot of the good talent on that team.

11. The Dallas Stars - 49 points in 47 games, 19-17-11.

The Stars are an odd team. They're certainly able to score a lot of goals and they're a team with a lot of young talent, meshed with the experience of the Brad Richards, the Mike Modanos, the Marty Turcos, the Steve Otts. Unfortunately, they're a dismal road team (7-12-6 on the road, losers of their last 9), and their goaltending has really slowed down from the Marty Turco of yesteryear. If they can't do something to fix their road record, it won't even be worth making the playoffs without home-ice advantage.

12. The Anaheim Ducks - 49 points in 48 games, 21-20-7.

I'll admit that I was wrong when I said that the Ducks would surprise a lot of people and contend for the Pacific division title this year. I did not expect the loss of Chris Pronger to be such a big factor, but it has been. As has been inconsistencies in goal and, once again, an aging team. Still, with a lot of players going to the Olympics as well, you have to wonder whether they can get on the streak they need to in March.

13. The St. Louis Blues - 47 points in 46 games, 20-19-7.

The 3rd of the teams that were in last year's playoffs, the Blues were high on the expectations of a lot of experts early in the season. In fact, it's almost unexplainable why the Blues have not been able to even come close to a playoff berth through 46 games. Tkatchuk and Kariya have generally been healthy, in fact there haven't been many injuries at all for the Blues, and Mason's and Conklyn's stats have been good. The inability to score goals is a big factor, but this exciting young team shouldn't be having trouble scoring goals.

14. The Columbus Blue Jackets - 45 points in 49 games, 18-22-9.

The BJs are basically out of it, but just like the Blues, having made the playoffs last year and with a great young team full of talent, they shouldn't be in the position they are currently in. Nash hasn't been as good as he should be and Steve Mason has just plain sucked, and beyond a sophomore slump for the tender, his performance has also bee unexplainable. Can the Jackets pull out of their funk and make a push? It's doubtful, but anything is possible!

The Edmonton Oilers were omitted from the poll, because, who are we kidding, they're almost as bad as the Hurricanes and are more likely looking forward to winning the draft lottery than winning their way to a playoff berth.

Once again, click here to vote!

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com
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