Around the NHL: Western Conference at the quarter mark

 

Welcome to part two of our Around the NHL look at the league at the quarter mark. Today we will look at the western conference. Much like the east, there are a few pleasant surprises, the status quo and a few teams who have maybe not quite lived up to their expectations.

Central Division

We need to look no further than the central to find two teams who fall into the pleasant surprise category. The first team would have to be the Nashville Predators.  The Predators were the last team to lose a game in regulation this season. They jumped out to an early division lead and have been atop or near the top all season.

Nashville is led by potential Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne. Rinne currently sits tied atop the league with 13 wins on the young season. His .930 save percentage is good for 4th in the league and his 1.92 goals against is 3rd. 

Offensively, Nashville is led by Filip Forsberg. Forsberg has 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 points so far. He also leads the league in +/- at +20. The biggest question for a team like Nashville is can they sustain it. We will have to wait and see in order to answer that question.

On the other side we have the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche got off to a blazing start a year ago. This season expectations were high. The results have not been there. The Av's currently sit at 7-9-5 on the season good for 19 points in the standings. They currently sit in 12th place out west.

With a lot of teams off to good starts, Colorado will need to turn the ship around and do it fast or the season may be over by the halfway mark. The loss of Paul Stasny may be bigger than first expected. So far they have been unable to fill the void left by the young star.

Pacific Division

The class of the Western conference this season has been Anaheim. The ducks flew out of the gate and have led the pacific and western conferences almost all season. Teams like Vancouver and Los Angeles have knocked on the door but the Ducks do not let them in for long.

Frederik Andersen has been spectacular. He is 9-2-4 on the year with a 2.10 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. Offensively Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry lead the way. Perry was off to a torrid goal scoring start prior to getting hurt. His 11 goals are god for a tie for 5th in the league.

At the end of October we took a look at Calgary as a surprise team. As we close in on the end of November, it looks like the Flames may be here to stay. They say a team must learn to win. In Calgary's case, it may be more an issue of not being afraid to lose. 

The Flames are a good mix of young stars and veterans. The addition of Jonas Hiller has helped stabilize the goaltending situation and Mark Giordano has been an incredible leader. Calgary's 28 points is good for 4th in the conference and just three behind Anaheim.

It is still early in the season with most teams still having in the neighborhood of 60 games left.  There are some teams who you kind of felt could be down and out an they are. There are some surprises who we will see if they can sustain it for the long haul. There are also the teams who every year seem to be near the top and are.

Any way you slice, we still have more hockey to be played, than what has already been played. It should be an exciting middle quarter of the season. We may start to see pretenders turn into contenders or vice versa versa.

League Leaders through 11/23/14

Goals – Seguin – 15

Assists – Voracek – 22

Points – Voracek – 29

Plus/Minus – Forsberg +20

Wins – Rinne, Price, Miller – 13

Bill Minchin is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow Bill on Twitter @wtfd103074