There's some jackhole on the NHL Network who has refused to even acknowledge the likelihood of the Pens winning the Cup. It's not that we want every analyst to pick the Pens, but anyone worth the shit in their pants will at least put the Pens in the discussion. And when two analysts are staged to have debate circle-jerks, one will simply have to go against the Pens since the other analyst will most likely be picking them.
Can't even remember who that guy is from the NHL Network. Every time he's asked about which team will eventually win the Stanley Cup, he brushes away the Eastern Conference like it's some joke then he goes on to talk about how great the Western Conference is. Pisses us off.
So that's why we are looking at tonight's game as a pretty significant one. The Nashville Predators are invading CONSOL. St. Louis has run away with the Central Division, but Nashville, Detroit, AND Chicago will be heading to the playoffs this year. The Central is the Western Conference's version of the Atlantic, taking up 4 of the 8 playoff spots. That Central Division, from all indications, has had its way with Columbus all season, given the Jackets' standing as the worst team in the league. The Islanders, on the other hand, are the Blue Jackets of the East. Can't even remember playing the Islanders this year sans the Crosby game. Regardless, we're pretty sure that the Islanders would beat Columbus in a hypothetical 7-game series.
What we're not sure about is how Analyst X from the NHL Network has come to the conclusion that the Western Conference is a stone-cold lock to take the Cup. Three of the four worst teams in the NHL, points-wise, call the Western Conference home. That would be Columbus, Edmonton, and Minnesota. Montreal is the East team of that group of four. Montreal is a mess.
Let's look at some stats.
First, Columbus' record against the Central Division this season: 3-16-2. Read that shit again. Points-wise, it's the worst record in the league when it comes to games against divisional opponents. It all boils down to the fact that the top West teams in general have played against the anus of the league all season. That boost in competitive advantage has only allowed them to more or less match the Eastern Conference teams' point totals. On the flip side, maybe those bottom three teams are anal because the top West teams are simply too good.
One of the things decidedly not in the favor of this argument is the East's record against the West this season: 125-93-34 (which is actually a losing record at 125-127). If this record was in favor of our argument, then we would make a big deal out of it. But since it's not, we'll downplay it. It's not indicative of what we're looking for. We want to know how the best teams in each Conference match up against each other, since this is a discussion about the Stanley Cup. Carolina's record against the Pacific Division is meaningless in this discussion.
So we are taking division leaders head-to-head against division leaders. We wanted to find the Rangers' record against Vancouver, St. Louis, and Dallas, for example. So here's what we found.
NOTE: We went with Division leaders because it was a clean cut-off point. Obviously Philly is better than Florida, record-wise, but meh. We weren't gonna sit here and compute all day. Got shit to do.
While the Western division leaders again come out on top with 5 wins to 4 losses, it's still not anything resembling a runaway stat that could convince someone that the Western Conference pisses on the East. The Pens, on the other hand, have sick numbers all across the board.
So maybe Analyst X has a good argument in terms of saying the West is going to take home the Cup. But to not even consider Pittsburgh is something an idiot would do, given these stats. It gets more detailed when you go into X's and O's obviously, but the Pens' record against the entirety of the Western Conference, not to mention the best teams in the NHL, is something that can't be completely ignored when you say they couldn't hang with the eventual Western Conference Cup Finalist.
The scary part about the Pens' dominance against the West this season? Tonight against Nashville will be Crosby's first time this season playing a Western Conference team. Ooh that stings. (UPDATE: He played St. Louis. And the Pens lost. Whoops. Yeah, like the Blues will be the thing stopping this Pens team.)
Then again, what are we talking about? Pens aren't even in the playoffs yet. Do it.