This is a weekly feature in which I’ll look at the performances and narratives of the teams in the Pacific Division.
It’s 2018 and the Vegas Golden Knights are leading the Pacific Division. Them and the Kings appear to be the class of the Pacific, while the Sharks, Ducks, and Flames are all in a log jam for the third seed. The Oilers are still in the mix, but have slumped since Christmas, while the Canucks have been trending downwards.
1st: Vegas Golden Knights
26-9-2 (54 points) / +26 goal differential
Nobody saw this coming. Nobody. I don’t even think the Golden Knights themselves saw this coming. But this expansion team is rocking a 26-9-2 record on New Year’s Day and they appear to not only be poised for a playoff appearance, but a deep playoff run as well. Last week, the Golden Knights won on the road in Anaheim and Los Angeles and then dominated the Leafs at home. The three wins extended their winning streak to seven games, which is a season-high.
Vegas is also 14th in the league with a 50.1 even strength shot attempt differential. It isn’t spectacular, but it’s solid, putting them right around where contending teams like the Predators and Kings rank. So this doesn’t appear to just be a mirage.
2nd: Los Angeles Kings
23-11-5 (51 points) / +24 goal differential
The Kings had a solid week coming out of the Christmas break, winning in Vancouver and earning an overtime loss point against the Golden Knights. Since their eight-game winning streak ended back in early December, L.A. has gone a little cold. They’re 3-3-2 over their last eight games, but nobody else behind them has really made up any ground.
The team is operating largely on excellent goaltending, as the Kings have the league’s third-best even strength save percentage at 93.7. Anze Kopitar is carrying the load offensively, but the team will get Jeff Carter back some time in the next month and a bit.
3rd: San Jose Sharks
20-12-4 (44 points) / +6 goal differential
The Sharks played two games last week, earning a win against the Flames and then getting pounded 6-0 in Dallas by the Stars.
They’re 6-2-2 over their last 10 games and have kept pace with the Ducks and Flames, but the Sharks have had a difficult time separating themselves from pack and challenging Vegas and L.A. at the top of the division’s standings largely because they never have any prolonged winning streaks. Only once this season has San Jose won more than three games in a row.
4th: Anaheim Ducks
18-14-8 (44 points) / -6 goal differential
The key for the Ducks was staying above water until their top centres returned from injury. Since Ryan Getzlaf was activated from the Injured Reserve back in mid-December, the Ducks have gone 6-3-1. They also welcomed back Ryan Kelser after Christmas, who had been sidelined for the entire season.
Last week, Anaheim went 2-1, with a loss to Vegas and wins over Calgary and Arizona. Now that they have Kelser and Getzlaf back, expect them to make a charge up the standings.
5th: Calgary Flames
19-16-4 (42 points) / -6 goal differential
The Flames are sitting on the outside of a playoff spot looking in at the New Year as the Ducks and Sharks have been climbing up the standings. Calgary has had a rough time coming out of the Christmas break, as the team dropped games in San Jose and Anaheim, but won in overtime over Chicago.
The Flames were also dealt an unfortunate blow as Michael Frolik was placed on the Injured Reserve with a broken jaw and is expected to miss a good chunk of time.
Fun Fact: The Oilers gave up the winning goal on the first shot of the game.— Rob Tychkowski (@Rob_Tychkowski) January 1, 2018
Happy New Year!
6th: Edmonton Oilers
17-19-3 (37 points) / -12 goal differential
After it appeared the Oilers had figured themselves up and were climbing up the standings, but the team has faltered after the Christmas break. They got edged out in Winnipeg by the Jets, lost in overtime to the Blackhawks, and then got hammered on New Year’s Eve by Winnipeg at home.
The Oilers are still alive in the playoff race, but they’re seven points out of a playoff spot with a lot of teams to jump. Last week was a critical one for the Oilers to continue their climb, but only earning one of a possible six points against Western teams doesn’t bode well for their comeback run.
7th: Vancouver Canucks
16-18-5 (37 points) / -21 goal differential
After a surprisingly good start to the season, the Canucks have hit a major cold streak and have dropped down to seventh place in the Pacific Division. They’re 2-7-1 in their last 10 games largely because of a glut of injuries. They’ve been without Bo Horvat since the beginning of December, but they also lost Troy Stetcher and Chris Tanev to injuries since then.
8th: Arizona Coyotes
9-27-5 (23 points) / -52 goal differential
It’s 2018 and the Coyotes are still very bad. They’re 1-2 since Christmas, with a win over Colorado and losses to Toronto and Anaheim. Their season has been over since they lost 11 games to kick it off.