1) Its been stated by many (including us here) - http://newfaux.blogspot.com/2009/10/west-still-best.html the past couple of seasons that there was a definite edge to the western conference with respect to overall depth of quality of teams. Sure, the East still wins its share of Cups- as witnessed last season in Pittsburgh, but overall the past few years its inescapable that the West is best!
2) Although they have a commanding edge overall in head to head match ups,(12 of the 15 West teams have winning records against the East!) it was 2 recent games that put a clear and indistinguishable stamp on that. The Sharks thumping of the Capitals and the Blackhawks manhandling the NJ Devils. With respect to the defending champs, the Caps and Devs have been the best overall teams in their conference. So it was with much anticipation that we watched them play two of the arguably 4 top teams out West. The others we'd consider there are Calgary and Vancouver (apologies to the good folks in Phoenix and Denver-that's how good the west is!).
3) In those two bell weather games the West out scored the East 10-3. Now, we do have to mention that in both games the Western team was at home, and in the case of NJ, they were playing the back end of consecutive games played. However, it can't be overlooked how dominating the Sharks and Blackhawks looked. In SJ they held the highest scoring East team to 2 goals (one was kinda fluky). In Chicago the Hawks were able to get 5 goals past Marty Brodeur, who just recently shut out the Penguins (for the 2nd consecutive time this season) as well as being the all time win/shut out leader. Yet the Hawks were able to dismantle the Lemaire/Brodeur defensive enigma with veritable ease.
4) The thing we can't answer is why. Its not like the West has superior players. There is too much player movement that would tend to negate that anyway. Such as a player like a Chris Pronger who started in the East, had some great seasons (Norris Trophy) out West and now is back East. Or Scott Niedermayer (the captain of team Canada) who is now out West after playing/winning Cups in the East. If anything you'd expect the reverse with the increased travel imposed on the West. This is unavoidable regardless of how you schedule games as its just a geographical fact that most of the population lives in the 2 Eastern time zones. This fact though hasn't seemed to matter in head to head play, but some like to use this excuse as to why the Cups are even (or swayed more to the East if you include Detroit (who reside in the Eastern time zone)
5) So going into the second half it will be most fascinating to watch the jockeying in the West where any of the top 8 teams could make it to the Finals. It is an unfortunate result of the way the NHL has its playoff format that 2-3 very good teams are eliminated out west on route to the Finals. These things do tend to be cyclical though. 20 years ago it was the east that had the majority of quality teams. We'd expect that in time the East will probably rebound, but the way things have gone thus far this season, its NOT going to be during the 09-10 season!