Did you know that since the lockout, 80 percent of teams in playoff position after 20 games ended up securing postseason bids? As the NHL's teams close in on the 20-game mark, Puck Prospectus revisits its preseason projections to evaluate some of the Western Conference's most intriguing teams. By comparing the early returns to their projections (measured in goals versus threshold (GVT), a proprietary metric comprising the sum of the game's components -- offense, defense, goaltending, shootouts), we can see whether teams are likely to sustain their success or rebound from rough patches.
To check out the Eastern Conference report, click here.
Chicago Blackhawks, 26 Points, 19 Games Played
On pace to win the Central Division with 112 points, six points more than its VUKOTA projection, Chicago is looking solid. While many were skeptical of Cristobal Huet after Nikolai Khabibulin's departure to Edmonton, the Blackhawks have allowed only 46 goals, second fewest in the West. Has Huet really lived up to expectations? Not exactly, since he's posted a minus-0.9 GVT in the net, including an NHL-worst minus-1.3 GVT in the shootout. The Hawks' defense has picked up the slack, posting a league-best 10.9 GVT. Brent Seabrook (2.4 defensive GVT, second in NHL) and Duncan Keith (2.2 DGVT, fifth) have starred early, with Keith also putting up a 2.1 GVT on offense. As he enters restricted free agency next year, the Winnipeg, Canada, native is on pace for a 20.7 GVT, which is nine better than his VUKOTA projection of 11.7. In the here and now, that performance should help the Hawks easily clinch a playoff berth. -- Andrew Rothstein