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Red Wings best team in the West?

Image (1) Babcock-thumb-250x166-8058.jpg for post 547

When you look at the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to say who the best teams in the conference are. The Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres are all firmly entrenched on a tier well above the rest of the Eastern teams.

Yet when it comes to the West, that’s a tougher nut to crack. Just a few months back you could say it was San Jose, Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles.....but now? The Blackhawks and the Avalanche are stumbling, the Kings are showing their youth and inexperience and the Sharks are just now starting to again. So which teams would be the ones to look out for the most once the playoffs start?

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is unsure himself, per Dana Wakiji of The Detroit News:

“I think Chicago’s (99 points before hosting Columbus on Sunday) probably the best team in the West, but San Jose might be,” Babcock said.

“I guess that’s what I’m trying to say is I don’t know if you interview 10 people if they’d all give you the same three. That’s how tight the league is now and obviously with our experience, if we can get into the tournament, we feel we have a chance.”

Babcock is obviously playing coy here. There’s no doubt that the Red Wings are playing the best overall hockey in the West right now (perhaps in the NHL), and as this veteran and experienced team gears up for the playoffs they are perhaps the one team that nobody wants to face. The Red Wings have a great chance to move up as high as fifth in the conference, and could even threaten the Blackhawks for the division lead.

That such a thing is even possible, after such a slow start, is remarkable.

There’s still a long way to go before we call this season a complete comeback. Jimmy Howard could fall apart in the playoffs and the Red Wings head for an early, first round exit. Or we could see Detroit threatening for yet another -- it’s not fair! -- Stanley Cup. Either outcome wouldn’t surprise me.