SUN Hockey Pool

East, West debate as contentious as ever

MACKENZIE LIDDELL, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:34 PM ET

TORONTO -- If only Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin played on opposite coasts the East versus West feud would be complete.

But, with parity at an all-time high in the Western Conference while the East boasts the game's flashiest stars, it is the perfect time to revisit this age-old debate.

Rather than deciding conference supremacy in a lackluster one-game event where showmanship is more important than winning, the East-West argument can be put in perspective by a look at the numbers.

Statistically speaking, the West is by far the best.

Besides owning a 76-41-19 record against the East this year, the West has also outscored them by 53 total goals and 21 in head-to-head matches.

One look at the current standings also plays into the West's favour, as six of the bottom eight teams come out of the East.

And with only five points separating fourth from 12th, the depth and competitiveness of the West is unmatched by its conference rival.

Add those numbers to the more strenuous travel schedule endured by West Coast teams -- particularly for the Eastern-based teams in the Central Division -- and it appears they have the East easily beat.

But on the flip side, two of the league's top-three teams -- Pennsylvania powerhouses Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- are from the East.

But bragging rights often go beyond team performances and filter down to the individual players -- with each side listing off All-Stars who frequently terrorize inter-conference opponents.

Although the top-10 point-producing forwards are split between East and West, you can't neglect the sheer dominance of Sidney Crosby, Steve Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin -- arguably the three best players in the league.

The goaltending on the right coast is also superior to its left counterpart, as the East has given up 13 fewer goals thanks in part to Vezina-worthy performances by Tim Thomas, Carey Price and Ondrej Pavelec.

That's not to say the West is far behind in stats and star-power, but at this point in the season Eastern Conference players of every position are lighting up the league.

Going back over the years these numbers are interchangeable, much like the individual awards doled out to the NHL's top performers at season's end.

Ultimately what it comes down to, however, is playoff success and Stanley Cup glory -- and currently, only the Chicago Blackhawks can lay claim to that.


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