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Photo Credit: © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Around The Pacific: Vegas, L.A. remain on top, Coyotes still winless

This is a weekly feature in which I’ll look at the performances and narratives of the teams in the Pacific Division. 

The Pacific Division is nowhere near what you’d have expected it to be heading into the season. The Golden Knights have only lost one game, the Oilers and Sharks can’t score, and the Coyotes are somehow even worse than usual.

1st: Los Angeles Kings

6-0-1 (13 points) / +13 goal differential / 51.3 CF% (11th) / 103.7 PDO (5th)

The Los Angeles Kings are the last remaining NHL team that hasn’t yet lost in regulation this season. That’s definitely not something I expected to say. The Kings haven’t looked good since they won the Stanley Cup in 2014. They missed the playoffs in 2014-15, were good-but-not-great in 2015-16, and missed again in 2016-17. This year, though, under a new head coach, they look much more like the contender team from the past.

Last week, the Kings played two games, a 5-1 drubbing of the struggling Canadiens and a 6-4 win over the flying Blue Jackets, to bring their record to 6-0-1 on the season. Leading the way in L.A. has been Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. You expect that from the former, but not the latter.

One worry for the Kings is that Jeff Carter is out six-too-eight weeks with an ankle injury, meaning the Kings might to look to fill the void via the trade market.

2nd: Vegas Golden Knights

6-1-0 (12 points) / +6 goal differential / 45.9 CF% (29th) / 103.1 PDO (7th)

With the Kings, you can understand the hot start. There’s a legitimately skilled core there than can be effective. But with the Vegas Golden Knights? It just seems like a matter of time before this thing crashes down. Still, good on them for having far and away the best start for an expansion team we’ve seen in recent years. The expansion teams of the 90s came nowhere near the success off the hop this Vegas team has seen.

Last week, the Golden Knights won two thrilling overtimes games in front of their hometown crowds. They blew a lead late to the Sabres, but pulled out a win in overtime to avoid the collapse. Then, a few days later, the squeaked out an overtime win over the Blues despite being heavily outshot. They’re 6-1-0 but have terrible possession numbers and are riding high percentages. This bubble is going to burst eventually.

In bad news for the Golden Knights, Malcolm Subban, who’s been very good since being claimed off waivers, got injured and will miss a month of action. He joins Marc-Andre Fleury who’s on the shelf indefinitely with a concussion. I have a feeling one of those percentages is going to slide pretty quickly here.

3rd: Vancouver Canucks

4-3-1 (9 points) / Even goal differential / 49.3 CF% (16th) / 101.2 PDO (13th)

The Vancouver Canucks are playing pretty much how you’d expect them to. They’re 4-3-1 after eight games and have middling shot attempt differentials and percentages. They’ve managed to make themselves not exactly terrible, but not particularly good either.

Last week, they hammered the Senators, who hammered the Oilers and Canucks, I should add, then they got dropped handily by the Bruins, but finished the week with back-to-back wins over Buffalo and Detroit. It was a solid week for Vancouver, but still, you can’t help but look at the fact that Derek Dorsett is on pace for 40 goals and think that this might slow down sooner rather than later.

4th: Calgary Flames

4-4-0 (8 points) / -3 goal differential / 49.3 CF% (15th) / 99.7 PDO (19th)

The Calgary Flames are off to a meh start to their season. They’re 4-4 through eight games after dropping a couple game last week to the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild.

On the bright side, Mike Smith, their much-maligned off-season solution in net, has been quite solid. Through seven starts, Smith has a .927 save percentage. But on the not-so-bright side, the Flames have had a hard time scoring. They’re getting offence from Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and the rest of the top six, but virtually nothing from the bottom six.

At the epicentre of that struggle has been Sam Bennett. Through eight games, the 21-year-old doesn’t have a single point has has underlying numbers similar to Tanner Glass. With Jaromir Jagr set to hit the injured reserve, the Flames could look to spark their offence by calling up Mark Jankowski, who’s been killing it in the AHL so far. Whatever they do, their depth scoring needs a spark.

5th: Anaheim Ducks

3-3-1 (7 points) / -1 goal differential / 46.4 CF% (27th) / 101.6 PDO (10th)

The Anaheim Ducks only played once this week. They managed a 6-2 win over the walking disaster Canadiens from Montreal, surviving a 30-shot onslaught in the second period. With the win, Anaheim pushed themselves to 3-3-1, which is actually really good considering how hard they’ve been smacked by the injury stick. The goal for the Ducks is to stay above water with their patchwork lineup, and so far, they’ve done just that.

6th: San Jose Sharks

3-4-0 (6 points) / -2 goal differential / 55.8 CF% 2nd) / 95.4 PDO (28th)

The San Jose Sharks are yet another underachieving team in the Pacific Division. Through seven games, they’re 3-4, which isn’t terrible but the worrying part about the Sharks is that their offence has looked largely limp. They’re 25th in terms of goals scored, and while they’re right at the top of the league in shot attempt differential, their power play has been nonexistent.

You have to assume it’s going to balance out because of their underlying numbers and the skill on their roster, but the Sharks certainly aren’t the potent offence they used to be.

7th: Edmonton Oilers

2-5-0 (4 points) / -8 goal differential / 57.4 CF% (1st) / 94.3 PDO (29th)

Much like the Sharks, the Oilers are right at the top of the league in shot attempt differential, but don’t have much to show for it. They’re 30th in goals scored, and as a result, have a very disappointing 2-5 record.

Leon Draisaitl has been sidelined for four games with a swollen eye and concussion-like symptoms, massively effecting Edmonton’s offensive attack. The team isn’t getting any depth scoring, as Connor McDavid is the only player with more than two goals and they all came in one game. Also, the team’s power play has only converted four times.

Last week, they got drilled by Carolina, rebounded nicely in Chicago, but then looked stale in Philadelphia. Through seven games, the Oilers simply haven’t looked like the energized squad that generated a lot of hype last season.

8th: Arizona Coyotes

0-7-1 (1 point) / -16 goal differential / 47.5 CF% (25th) / 96.5 PDO (27th)

I regret to inform you that the Arizona Coyotes have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. This season looked promising after a summer in which the Yotes landed a handful of solid veteran talent to insulate their exciting young core, but it hasn’t worked out at all so far.

Through eight games, Arizona is the only team in the NHL without a win. None of their underlying numbers suggest this terrible play is a fluke, either. We’ll give them a little bit of time because, like I said, there are a lot of new faces and the Coyotes are learning the system of a new head coach, but this team is currently on pace for 10 points.