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Taming the East

by Dave Tomlinson / Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks will battle five teams from the Eastern Conference during this road trip, and believe it or not, they have the second most wins of any Western Conference team versus the East this year.

In what is a critical road trip, the fact that they are also slightly more successful away from home then at Rogers Arena allows for an optimistic view despite all the injuries they are dealing with.

Overall, the West simply beats up on the East in head to head games, but why is that? In this time of overall NHL parity, why do the Western teams have a combined 167 wins to date over Eastern teams versus 150 wins for East teams against the West?

More ABOUT TOMLINSON

Dave Tomlinson, radio Colour Commentator for the Vancouver Canucks, and analyst of all things hockey.

Follow Tomlinson on Twitter at @DTeam1040

There are three things that can help explain why that is.

First of all, the West has more power duos than the East to contend with and therefore shutting down two players rather than just one becomes a bigger deal. Think of dealing with Getzlaf and Perry, Kane and Toews, Couture and Pavelski (taking over from Marleau and Thornton),Seguin and Benn, and most obviously, Henrik and Daniel. The East can counter with Crosby and Malkin, but they rarely play together for extended stretches, so that leaves Tavares, Ovechkin, Stamkos and Kessel to do the job most nights on their own. This is a very simplistic way of looking at it but it does hold true.

From a defensive standpoint, a quick glance at which Conference can offer up more stud defencemen puts things more into light when comparing the two. The West has Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Mark Giordano, Oliver Ekaman-Larsson and Ryan Suter. The East can counter with Norris winners PK Subban and Zdeno Chara, (but miles on the body have caught with the latter), and that’s about it. Not to discredit Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang, but those two are stronger offensively than defensively while the Western group can offer up both at a higher level. There are of course more forwards and defencemen that can be added to each list, but in going with the most obvious choices, the West is the best.

In the end, probably the most important thing the West has going for it versus the East is style of play and acclimation to travel. The Western teams are more prepared and more experienced with the demands of long road trips in comparison to teams from the East. The style of play is simply a by-product of how Western teams are built with regards to spreading around ice time to counter travel fatigue, meaning teams from the West play four-line hockey and turn everything into a grind-it-out grudge match. Teams from the East, who benefit from proximity of opponent most nights, tend to rely on only three lines because they can, and in echoing a point made above, really rely on their one star player to be a difference maker each night.

If everything is extrapolated, a two-pronged attack is better than a one-man show, four lines grinding versus three lines playing loose is more difficult to play against, and the ability to better deal with extended road trips is why the West will continue to dominate the East. In the case of the Canucks, they just hope they can replicate their early season success against the East when they went 8 and 2 in their first ten games playing teams from the weaker Conference.

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