Drawing conclusions about the Pacific Division after one month of play
By Cam Lewis4 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers are set to play two important games against Pacific Division opponents who are ahead of them in the standings this week.
Let’s go through how the teams in the Pacific have fared through the first month of the 2022-23 NHL season and what we can expect from the field the rest of the way.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
Record: 13-3-0 (26 points), Goals For: 59 (3rd of 32), Goals Against: 37 (3rd of 32)
The Golden Knights are off to an excellent start in the Bruce Cassidy era, as they’re in first place in the Western Conference and are five points clear of the next closest team behind them in the standings. After a season marred by injuries and salary cap dancing, the Golden Knights have everybody healthy and again look like a Stanley Cup contender.
The biggest surprise behind Vegas’ early success this season has been the stellar play of their goaltending tandem. With Robin Lehner out for the season because of a hip injury, Logan Thompson has stepped up with a .925 save percentage over 10 starts. Adin Hill, who Vegas acquired shortly before the season, has a .920 save percentage over his first six starts with the team. The team also deserves some credit here, as the Golden Knights have been among the best in the league at suppressing high-danger scoring chances so far.
2. Los Angeles Kings
Record: 10-7-1 (21 points), Goals For: 61 (2nd of 32), Goals Against: 63 (30th of 32)
The L.A. Kings put together a breakout season last year and the hope was that they could take another step forward this year with an improved offence. The Kings have exploded offensively early in 2022-23 thanks to the addition of Kevin Fiala, who has 18 points in 18 games, and top draft picks Gabe Vilardi and Arthur Kaliyev, who have combined for 16 goals.
While the Kings have improved from a below-average offence last year to one of the highest-scoring teams through the first month of play, they’ve given a lot of it back because of their inability to keep the puck out of their own net. Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen have combined for a .883 save percentage so far this season, a number that needs to improve if they’re going to go on any kind of run.
3. Seattle Kraken
Record: 8-5-3 (19 points), Goals For: 52 (11th of 32), Goals Against: 45 (11th of 32)
The Kraken won three games last October and were nowhere near playoff contention at any point during their inaugural season. Seattle’s second season in the league has been much more of a success, as a five-game winning streak in early November has them currently sitting in a playoff spot.
There isn’t any one player who’s carrying the Kraken right now, their nice start to the season has come from improved depth and tightening things up defensively. It’s difficult to imagine that the Kraken will remain a playoff contender as the season moves along but they aren’t the pushover opponent they were last year.
4. Edmonton Oilers
Record: 9-7-0 (18 points), Goals For: 59 (3rd of 32), Goals Against: 58 (27th of 32)
The Oilers have had an uneven start to their season but are still sitting with a decent 9-7-0 record after one month of play. A lot of the same problems that have been present for years continue to persist, as Edmonton’s blueline has looked shaky and the team isn’t getting as much depth scoring as they’d like.
Excellent starts from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Stuart Skinner have helped to cover up some of the team’s issues early on but they won’t be able to ride that forever. The Oilers have some work to do because they haven’t looked like a serious Stanley Cup contender through the first month of the season.
5. Calgary Flames
Record: 7-6-2 (16 points), Goals For: 47 (19th of 32), Goals Against: 50 (18th of 32)
The new-look Flames came flying out of the gate this season, winning five of their first six games, but a seven-game losing streak has buried most of the optimism that came with the team’s hot start. They currently own a 7-6-2 record and are tied with the Minnesota Wild for the second wild-card spot.
It was inevitable that Calgary’s offence was going to take a step back after both Johnny Gaudreau and Matt Tkachuk left the team in the off-season but the Flames have also struggled to keep the puck out of the net despite an improved blueline. Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar have fared well in their first month as members of the Flames but Jonathan Huberdeau has struggled to find his footing, as he has just three even-strength points through 12 games.
6. San Jose Sharks
Record: 5-9-3 (13 points), Goals For: 47 (19th of 32), Goals Against: 60 (28th of 32)
The Sharks are stuck in a weird position, as they’re nowhere near good enough to seriously challenge for a playoff spot but they also have too much talent to tank and get themselves a top draft pick. They started the season on a five-game losing skid but have picked things up since and now sit at 5-9-3.
San Jose’s best player so far this season has been Erik Karlsson, who has 22 points through 17 games while logging an average of 25:30 per night. There are still four more seasons left on his contract after this one with an $11.5 million cap hit. Would a contender trade for Karlsson if the Sharks retained half of his salary? If he continues to play like this, there’ll surely be some interest in the two-time Norris Trophy winner.
7. Vancouver Canucks
Record: 4-9-3 (11 points), Goals For: 53 (10th of 32), Goals Against: 66 (31st of 32)
The Canucks started last season 8-15-2 but then went 32-15-10 the rest of the way after they fired head coach Travis Green and replaced him with Bruce Boudreau. The hope in Vancouver was that they could pick up where they left off and make the playoffs with an entire season of Boudreau behind the bench.
At this point, it doesn’t look like Boudreau is going to last the season. Vancouver dropped their first seven games out of the gate and the team owns a 4-9-3 record after one month of play. The Canucks have avoided a full-on rebuild for years but that might be the only way out of this mess.
8. Anaheim Ducks
Record: 4-10-1 (9 points), Goals For: 42 (25th of 32), Goals Against: 68 (32nd of 32)
The Ducks are in last place in the Pacific Division with a 4-10-1 record and they’re tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for dead last in the league. After dealing away Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Josh Manson at last year’s trade deadline, this showing wasn’t at all unexpected. This team is fully engaged in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.
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