Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Pacific Division Notebook: Flames positioned to sell, Kings continue to slide, the Wild Card situation, and more
27 days ago
For most of the teams in the Pacific Division, the All-Star break has begun.
You know the story, the Oilers are a win away from matching the longest win streak in National Hockey League history, their provincial rival is looking more and more like they’ll sell, and the Vegas Golden Knights are using the long-term injured reserve… again.
Let’s look at this week’s Pacific Division Notebook!
33-11-5, 186 goals for, 127 goals against
Somehow, the Vancouver Calucks have continued to get lucky with their shooting percentage, as they sit at the top of the National Hockey League standings as of January 29.
It’s the usual suspects for the Canucks. J.T. Miller leads the team with 21 goals and 67 points, and Elias Pettersson is just behind him with 27 goals and 64 points. Defenceman Quinn Hughes leads all defencemen in points with 62 of them, along with 12 goals. Brock Boeser hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career, as he has 30 goals and 52 points and will blow by his career-best 56-point season he set in 2018-19.
Thatcher Demko has continued his strong play, as he has a .920 save percentage and 2.44 goals-against average in 35 games. Casey DeSmith has played 15 games and has a .911 save percentage and 2.58 goals-against average.
A couple of weeks ago, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli released an article looking at what all Western Conference teams would do at this year’s deadline. He believes the Canucks will attempt to get a top-six centre so the team can play Pettersson and Miller together. Calgary’s Elias Lindholm is a good fit.
As of now, the Canucks sit 12 points ahead of the Oilers with four games in hand. If the Oilers were to win all four of those games, as they’ve done recently, they’d only be four points back of the Canucks, so a Pacific Division crown certainly isn’t guaranteed for the Canucks.
Vegas Golden Knights:
29-15-6, 163 goals for, 138 goals against
Nearly the entirety of the Golden Knights’ core roster is injured and players are landing on the LTIR left, right, and centre with the trade deadline approaching. Who would have guessed?
Mark Stone has 15 goals and leads the team with 49 points, with the injured Jack Eichel scoring 19 goals and 44 points before receiving lower-body surgery. Jonathan Marchessault leads the team in goals with 25 and also has 40 points. William Karlsson, who spent time on the LTIR, has returned and has 15 goals and 32 points.
Adin Hill has returned from the LTIR and has a .936 save percentage and 1.94 save percentage in 17 games played. Logan Thompson filled in for the injured Hill and has a .906 save percentage and 2.77 goals-against average in 31 games played.
According to the Daily Faceoff article, the Golden Knights just need to stay healthy, as they’ve missed quite a few playoffs throughout the season, including top-four defenceman Shea Theodore. It’s unclear what they’ll need to upgrade at the deadline as it’s health-dependent, but defence is probably what they should go after.
If the Oilers won all five of their games in hand on the Golden Knights, they’d uno reverse the reigning Stanley Cup champions and be five points up on them. Vegas has experience and shouldn’t be taken lightly in the playoffs.
29-15-1, 160 goals for, 124 goals against
The entire league is asking, “When will it end?” while us Oiler fans are asking for it never to end. Edmonton’s win streak now sits at 16 games, matching the 2016-17 Columbus Blue Jackets’ streak, and just one shy of the record. They’ll play the Golden Knights upon returning from the very, very long All-Star break, with a chance to break the record against the Anaheim Ducks if they can beat Vegas.
At a certain point during their win streak, McDavid went eight straight games with only one or fewer points, the first time that’s happened since his rookie season. Since then, he’s exploded with seven points on Edmonton’s last seven goals and has 20 goals and 67 points. Leon Draisaitl has been reunited with McDavid and has six points in his last two to push him to 23 goals and 57 points.
Zach Hyman leads the team in goals with 30, along with 47 points, and is still on pace to surpass 50 goals this season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has had a sneakily good season, scoring 12 goals and 44 points and has been great when playing with McDavid and Hyman. Evan Bouchard has broken out to be a true top-pairing defenceman, scoring 11 goals and 43 points.
A big reason, and I’d argue the biggest reason, the Oilers are where they are now, is because of the play of Stuart Skinner. After a .853 save percentage in his first eight games, he now has a .910 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average in 34 games played, with a 23-9-1 record. Calvin Pickard has been good in a backup role, as he has a .915 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average in eight games. The Oilers’ priority should not be a goaltender at the deadline.
According to Seravalli’s article, the Oilers will need either a third-line centre or a second-line right wing. With the signing of Corey Perry, the needs have changed as the Oilers need a scoring winger (Jake Guentzel please) and/or a second-pair right-shot defenceman as an upgrade over Cody Ceci.
Hopefully, the Oilers can keep the good times rolling and match the NHL win-streak record before smashing the Ducks and setting a new record.
Los Angeles Kings:
22-15-10, 148 goals for, 130 goals against
The Kings are in a totally separate situation from the Oilers, as they’ve lost 14 of their last 16 games. Now, six of those 14 losses have been in overtime or a shootout, but yikes. They looked like they were going to finish in the top three in the Pacific, but now their playoff spot isn’t even secured.
Adrian Kempe has 17 goals and 43 points, which leads the team. Kevin Fiala isn’t far behind as he has 12 goals and 42 points, while Anže Kopitar has 15 goals and 41 points. Trevor Moore leads the team with 21 goals and 34 points, with Quinton Byfield also having 34 points with 14 goals. The Kings have eight players with double-digit goals.
Former Oiler Cam Talbot has been struggling in recent times, as he has a .911 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average, but David Rittich has had some strong play in his 10 games, owning a .920 save percentage and 2.09 save percentage.
It makes sense that their need in the Daily Faceoff article is goaltending insurance. In January, Talbot had a .873 save percentage and was 0-6-2. He’s only had two games with a save percentage of about .900. In the three games that the Kings have played since the article was released on January 16, Talbot has a 0-3-0 record with a .831 save percentage.
The Kings currently occupy the first Wild Card position, but only by a point with two games in hand on the Nashville Predators.
21-18-10, 140 goals for, 145 goals against
It’s forgotten, but the Kraken also had a fairly lengthy win streak, as they had a nine-game win streak when the Oilers’ streak was at 10. Unfortunately for the league’s newest team, they lost four straight after and are 2-4-1 in their last seven games.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is having a career year as he has 13 goals and 40 points in 49 games and is just 17 points shy of a career-high. Defenceman Vince Dunn has eight goals and 37 points, while Jared McCann has 20 goals and 35 points. Eeli Tolvanen has 13 goals and 30 points, while former Oiler Jordan Eberle has nine goals and 28 points.
Joey Daccord is still playing well, as he has a .920 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average. Philipp Grubauer recently came off the injured list and had a .884 save percentage and 3.25 goals-against average this season.
According to the Daily Faceoff article, Seravalli sees the Kraken “holding the line.” This means to listen to all offers, like if a team *cough* Edmonton offers something for Adam Larsson, could the Kraken be tempted to be sellers? It’s worth noting that the Kraken’s win streak had just come to an end when this article was written, and while they’re still just two points out, a playoff spot isn’t guaranteed.
22-22-5, 149 goals for, 155 goals against
The Oilers and the Calgary Flames both had tough starts to their season, but the Flames are lacking a 16-game win streak, which leaves them five points out of a playoff spot with four teams to jump.
Blake Coleman, of all players, leads the team in points with 20 goals and 40 points, already a career-best season. Nazem Kadri has 16 goals and 39 points, while Yegor Sharangovich has really turned it up in recent times, scoring 20 goals and 35 points. On top of these three players, the Flames have eight other players with 20 or more points, with Lindholm being the only other player with 30 or more points.
Jacob Markström is essentially the only reason the Flames are anywhere near a playoff spot. The 33-year-old has a .912 save percentage and a 2.60 goals-against average in 29 games played for a 14-13-2 record. Daniel Vladar has played 16 games and has an .888 save percentage.
The Flames have their own category in Seravalli’s article, as they’re considered “Deadline Central”. Calgary has three highly valued players soon-to-be unrestricted free agents – Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, and Elias Lindholm. It wouldn’t be all too surprising if the Flames shipped off two of the three players (probably Lindholm and Tanev) while re-signing Hanifin.
A look at the Wild Card situation:
Since the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks have fallen out of the playoff race, we’ll look at some Central Division teams that are also in the mix.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues have a 26-20-2 record and have 54 points. They have a game in hand on the two teams that are on the outside looking in and have an extra game played on the Kings, whom they’re tied with. If the Blues decide to sell, I’d give my future firstborn child to the Oilers to acquire Colton Parayko.
Nashville Predators: The latest casualty in the Oilers’ enormous win streak, the Predators have a 26-22-1 record for 53 points, just one behind the St. Louis Blues. Nashville has several unrestricted free agents who could be moved, such as Tyson Barrie and Alexandre Carrier. Moreover, Gustav Nyquist and Juuse Saros, who both will become unrestricted free agents after 2024-25, could net the big deals if they decide to trade them at the deadline.
Arizona Coyotes: At one point, the Coyotes sat in a playoff spot, but their chances are slowly slipping away. They sit five games back of the Blues with the same number of games played, but have a meh record of 23-22-3 for 49 points. The Buffalo Sabres of the West have a young team but still may be a few seasons away from contending.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild probably shouldn’t be here, but they are seven points back of the Blues with five teams to pass. Former Oiler Patrick Maroon may be moved before the deadline, and Marc-André Fleury is an interesting goaltender to monitor at this year’s deadline.
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