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Super 16: West teams have faced longer road trips

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

By in large, the challenge of playing and making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference is considered to be greater than playing and making it in the Eastern Conference because of the strain of long travel created by the considerable distance between cities.

The Eastern Conference may have more competition (two more teams), but travel in the Western Conference literally creates a longer road to the playoffs.

The stress of playing in the West has been magnified a quarter of the way through this season by the duration of the road trips and the amount of games outside of the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones the majority of the teams have already completed or are currently going through.

Eight of 14 teams in the Western Conference have already had road trips of five games or longer, including recently completed seven-game trips by the Colorado Avalanche (4-3-0) and Vancouver Canucks (1-4-2), and the perfect six-game trip by the San Jose Sharks (6-0-0).

The Avalanche and Canucks each played the first six games of their road trip in the Eastern time zone. Every game on the Sharks road trip was in the Eastern time zone.

Three more Western teams are currently going through a stretch of five or more consecutive road games, including the Chicago Blackhawks' annual "Circus Trip." They are four games into the six-game trip.

By comparison, only two of the 16 Eastern Conference teams have had road trips as long as five games to date.

The Carolina Hurricanes went 4-3-0 on a seven-game trip, of which only three games were played outside the Eastern time zone. The Philadelphia Flyers went 1-3-1 on a five-game trip that featured four games outside the Eastern time zone.

Here's a rundown of how Western Conference teams have fared on completed road trips of five games or longer:

Arizona Coyotes: 2-2-1

Anaheim Ducks: 0-4-1

Calgary Flames: 1-4-1

Colorado Avalanche: 4-3-0

Los Angeles Kings: 2-2-1

San Jose Sharks: 6-0-0

St. Louis Blues: 4-2-0

Vancouver Canucks: 1-3-2

In fairness, 11 of the Eastern Conference teams will eventually have road trips of five games or longer, including an eight-game trip for the Montreal Canadiens from Dec. 19-Jan. 5, which includes the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Gillette Stadium. The New York Islanders have a seven-game trip from Feb. 19-March 6.

However, five East teams will go the entire season without a road trip longer than four games as opposed to three West teams. The Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers won't have one longer than three.

Every team in the West has at least two stretches of four or more consecutive road games, and eight of them have at least two of five or more games. Only five in the East have at least two stretches of five or more road games.

Some Western Conference teams have it far worse than others too.

The Kings will play 10 of their last 11 games in December on the road, including a six-game trip from Dec. 8-19. They also have a seven-game trip from Feb. 9-20.

The Canucks have two more six-game road trips left (Dec. 13-22, Jan. 14-23) before playing 16 of 22 games at home from Jan. 26-March 19.

The strain of the road on the Western Conference teams has been a consideration when doing the Super 16 each week, especially considering they have combined for 87 road games against East teams (42-38-7) as opposed to the 61 road games East teams have played against the West (30-25-6).

Road record vs. opposite conference by division:

Central: 25-20-2

Pacific: 17-18-5

Metropolitan: 19-15-1

Atlantic: 11-10-5

However, not to be discounted is the overall points percentage East teams have on the road compared to the West. The East teams have a combined .570 points percentage (85-62-15) on the road; West teams have a combined .509 points percentage (78-75-14).

Road record by division:

Central: 40-35-7

Pacific: 38-40-7

Metropolitan: 40-34-5

Atlantic: 45-28-10

In the end, every team will play 41 road games, but the duration of the road trips for the majority of the Western Conference teams and the amount of travel is a constant reminder of why playing in the West is widely considered to be a greater challenge than playing in the East.

DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the focus will be more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail?

All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night. Don't ignore the scattered links to good stories either:

1. Montreal Canadiens (17-4-2)

Last week: No. 3

What's good: Devante Smith-Pelly looked comfortable and scored twice playing in place of the injured Brendan Gallagher on the top line with Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec in a 5-1 win against the Rangers on Wednesday.

What's not so good: They're dealing with injuries to two of their most important players, Gallagher and goalie Carey Price.

2. Dallas Stars (17-5-0)

Last week: No. 1

What's good: They have scored three or more goals in 18 of 22 games this season, including four or more in 12.

What's not so good: They saw what can happen when turnovers plague their game in a 7-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

3. Washington Capitals (15-5-1)

Last week: No. 5

What's good: Defenseman Dmitry Orlov has goals in each of the past three games after scoring none in the first 18 games and six in his first 137 in the NHL.

What's not so good: Forward Andre Burakovsky is struggling in his second season; he has four points in 19 games. He's been a healthy scratch twice this week.

4. New York Rangers (16-4-2)

Last week: No. 2

What's good: Rick Nash has five goals in the past three games after scoring two in his first 17.

What's not so good: They are 29th in shots against per game (31.4), 28th in shot attempts percentage (45.88 SAT%) and last in 5-on-5 scoring chance differential (minus-77, according to war-on-ice.com).

5. St. Louis Blues (14-6-3)

Last week: No. 8

What's good: They are 7-6-3 when trailing or tied going into the third period, including 6-0-0 when tied after 40 minutes.

What's not so good: They have been trailing going into the third period in 10 games, the most among any Western Conference team currently in a playoff position.

6. Los Angeles Kings (13-8-1)

Last week: No. 4

What's good: They averaged 35.2 shots on goal on their recently completed five-game road trip.

What's not so good: They scored 11 goals and went 2-2-1 on the trip.

7. Chicago Blackhawks (12-8-2)

Last week: No. 7

What's good: Patrick Kane has points in 17 consecutive games, giving him a League-best 34 points (13 goals). He has at least two points in 10 games.

What's not so good: They are 5-7-1 when they outshoot the opponent as opposed to 7-1-1 when they get outshot.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (13-8-0)

Last week: No. 10

What's good: Sidney Crosby has a three-game point streak (three goals, one assist) for the first time this season.

What's not so good: Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz have combined for seven goals and 11 points, not enough for two players who are relied on for their offense.

9. San Jose Sharks (13-9-0)

Last week: No. 13

What's good: They went 6-0-0 on a road trip that ended Sunday, improving their record away from SAP Center to 10-3-0.

What's not so good: They are 3-6-0 at home.

10. Nashville Predators (12-6-3)

Last week: No. 6

What's good: They're 11-1-1 when scoring the first goal in games.

What's not so good: They didn't score in three straight games before scoring the first goal in a 3-2 win against the Sabres on Wednesday.

11. Minnesota Wild (11-6-3)

Last week: No. 9

What's good: They are 5-for-16 on the power play in the past four games.

What's not so good: They've won one of those games (1-3-0).

12. Ottawa Senators (12-5-5)

Last week: NR

What's good: They're 5-0-2 in their past seven games with a 26-14 edge in goals, including 6-3 in special-teams goals (6-for-21 on PP, 19-for-22 on PK).

What's not so good: Craig Anderson had to play back-to-back games this week at Dallas and at Colorado because Andrew Hammond is injured.

13. Tampa Bay Lightning (11-9-3)

Last week: No. 14

What's good: They've won three in a row for the first time since opening the season with three straight wins. In addition, they've allowed two goals in the three wins.

What's not so good: Scoring remains a concern; the Lightning have scored more than two goals once in their past four games and they're 22nd in the League with 2.35 goals per game.

14. Boston Bruins (12-8-1)

Last week: NR

What's good: The streaky Bruins are on a good streak now with four consecutive wins, aided by their perfect penalty kill. They are 13-for-13 on the PK during the winning streak.

What's not so good: Jimmy Hayes has no points, 16 shots and a minus-3 rating in the past nine games.

15. Detroit Red Wings (11-8-3)

Last week: NR

What's good: They're finding some consistency in their overall game and are 7-3-2 in their past 12 games, including 3-0-2 in the past five.

What's not so good: Henrik Zetterberg has three points in the past nine games, and Gustav Nyquist has three points in the past 11.

16. New York Islanders (11-8-3)

Last week: No. 11

What's good: They are 7-1-2 against teams that are not in a playoff position, proof that they are winning against the teams that they absolutely must defeat to be a playoff team.

What's not so good: The problem is they're 4-7-1 against teams in a playoff position, including 0-3-0 against the Canadiens and 0-2-0 against the Bruins.

Out: New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Winnipeg Jets

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