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Schedule

West may find points harder to come by this season

Saturday, 01.12.2013 / 10:42 PM / 2012-13 regular season schedule

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

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West may find points harder to come by this season
With all 48 games this season being played within the conference, the numbers show Western Conference teams may be scrambling to pick up the extra points they have pocketed for the past several years when facing their Eastern Conference opponents.

The NHL's 48-game schedule for the 2012-13 season, which was released Saturday, is absent of interconference games.

Starting in 2005-06, teams played 72 of 82 games within their conference. In an effort to have every team play one team from the other conference, teams began playing 64 games within their conference starting in 2008-09. Lengthy trips to the other side of the country won't happen in 2013, so each conference's playoff teams will have to take care of their own business.

With that being the case, how would last year's postseason have looked with only the 64 intraconference games counting in the standings? Let's start with the Eastern Conference, where not much changed. (Division winners are in bold.)

1. New York Rangers 41-18-5 87
2. Boston Bruins 38-23-3 79
3. Florida Panthers 33-19-12 76
4. New Jersey Devils 38-22-4 80
5. Pittsburgh Penguins 38-23-3 79
6. Philadelphia Flyers 36-21-7 79
7. Washington Capitals 34-22-8 76
8. Ottawa Senators 34-22-8 76
9. Winnipeg Jets 29-26-9 67
10. Buffalo Sabres 28-26-10 66
11. Tampa Bay Lightning 29-29-6 64
12. Carolina Hurricanes 25-27-12 62
13. New York Islanders 27-30-7 61
14. Montreal Canadiens 24-28-12 60
15. Toronto Maple Leafs 26-31-7 59

As you can see, the changes are minimal and the same eight teams would have qualified for the postseason. The three division winners remain unchanged, as do the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds. Due to the Devils' dominance in the East, they would've improved from the No. 6 seed to the No. 4 seed and gained home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Of course, there's no guarantee of that success this season with the loss of captain Zach Parise via free agency.

The biggest gap is the divide between the playoff teams and those that would not have qualified. In reality, the Senators hung on for dear life and edged the Sabres by three points for the East's final playoff spot. But in only counting games within the East, the Senators cruised to a nine-point advantage on the Winnipeg Jets.

In the West, things look a lot different if the East is taken out of the equation.

1. Vancouver Canucks 40-16-8 88
2. Nashville Predators 40-19-5 85
3. Phoenix Coyotes 34-20-10 78
4. Detroit Red Wings 38-21-5 81
5. St. Louis Blues 35-20-9 79
6. Los Angeles Kings 33-20-11 77
7. Chicago Blackhawks 33-23-8 74
8. Calgary Flames 31-22-11 73
9. San Jose Sharks 31-24-9 71
10. Dallas Stars 34-28-2 70
11. Minnesota Wild 30-27-7 67
12. Colorado Avalanche 28-31-5 61
13. Anaheim Ducks 26-30-8 60
14. Edmonton Oilers 24-33-7 55
15. Columbus Blue Jackets 23-37-4 50

As a conference, the West had 11 teams that were .500 or better against the East. Even the Oilers, the NHL's 29th place team last season, earned 19 of 36 possible points against the East.

The West has held the edge against the East during the NHL's regular season since '05-06, although last season the West earned 313 interconference points compared to the East's 305, the smallest that gap has been during that time.

But those extra points the West has come to enjoy will be non-existent this season.

Taking the East last season out of the mix bumps the Flames into a playoff spot and knocks out the Sharks. The Flames went 6-7-5 against the East last season while the Sharks rolled to a 12-5-1 mark, resulting in the only change in postseason berths.

The Blues shredded the East last season with a 14-2-2 record. With those games removed, the Blues went from Presidents' Trophy contenders and the No. 2 seed to a team that lacks home-ice advantage in the playoffs. The Predators will be hard-pressed to match last season's 40 wins in the West without Ryan Suter, but they have been in the West's top eight in intraconference play every year since '05-06, including in '09 when they missed the postseason.

The lack of interconference games shouldn't have a major effect on the NHL landscape, but it may have a more profound effect on the West.

West vs. East

Since 2005-06, the West has been the superior conference. Starting in '08-09, the NHL went from teams playing 72 games within their conference to 64. Here's a look at how the West has dominated the past seven seasons and the points each conference has earned in head-to-head matchups.

Season West East
'11-12 313 305
'10-11 324 291
'09-10 338 267
'08-09 308 206
'07-08 180 150
'06-07 184 155
'05-06 177 160

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