Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Pacific Division Notebook: Golden Knights place Jack Eichel on LTIR, Canucks extend Jim Rutherford’s contract, and more
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers are a wagon.
This is the Pacific Division notebook, a weekly article where we look at the situation surrounding Edmonton within their division. The Oilers have continued to win with no end in sight, the Vancouver Canucks rewarded the architect of their red-hot team, the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings continue to move through the mud, and the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames are falling into purgatory.
Let’s dive in!
31-11-4, 176 goals for, 119 goals against
At some point, you’d expect the Canucks to slow down because their team shooting percentage is just unsustainable. Yet, they keep winning, including a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s the same story as always. Quinn Hughes has 11 goals and 56 points in 46 games, J.T. Miller is leading the team in points with 21 goals and 63 points, and Elias Pettersson is hot on his trail with 25 goals and 61 points. Brock Boeser leads the team in goals with 27 of ‘em with 46 points. Filip Hronek, Conor Garland, Dakota Joshua, Ilya Mikheyev, Teddy Blueger, Nils Hogland, and Sam Lafferty all have 20 or more points, with Andrei Kuzmenko (who had 39 goals and 74 points in 2022-23) sitting on just 18 goals.
On top of great goal-scoring, the Canucks are also getting solid goaltending. Thatcher Demko has played 33 games with a 24-8-1 record with a .919 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average. Backup Casey DeSmith has appeared in just 14 games but has a 7-3-3 record with a .918 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.
Still, the Canucks may not have the playoff experience and magic shooting percentage juice to make it out of the first round. Maybe they’ll run into the Oilers in the spring like the 2021-22 Calgary Flames did. That’d be a fun series.
Vegas Golden Knights:
27-14-5, 148 goals for, 123 goals against
The annual march to the Long-Term Injured Reserve has begun for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Captain Mark Stone leads the team in points with 15 goals and 47 points in 46 games. Jack Eichel held the distinction of “top point-getter” for a while, but he’s out week to week after lower-body surgery. Jonathan Marchessault leads the team in goals with 20, while William Karlsson has played just one game in the month of January before an injury. His 15 goals and 32 points in 38 games are fourth on the team. One of their best defencemen, Shea Theodore, has been out since November due to upper-body surgery.
It’s not just skaters that have been getting injured, as Adin Hill has only played 15 games. Still, his 1.93 goals-against average and .933 save percentage lead the league for qualified goals (14 or more games). In his place, Logan Thompson has filled in well, owning a .910 save percentage and a 2.61 goals-against average in 29 games.
There’s no doubt that the Knights are actually banged up, but we’ve seen time and time again that LTIR can be manipulated. It’s just frustrating to see teams magically become healthy before playoff time.
26-15-1, 149 goals for, 122 goals against
The Edmonton Oilers need just five more wins to break the National Hockey League record for consecutive wins. They picked up their 13th straight with a win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Connor McDavid, of course, leads the team in points with 16 goals and 59 points, as his point streak came to an end on Saturday. Leon Draisaitl has been fantastic as of late and has 22 goals and 50 points in 42 games. Zach Hyman is the best free agent signing in Edmonton’s history, as he has 28 goals and 45 points in 41 games and is about to blow by his career-high in goals. Evan Bouchard has developed into that elite offensive defenceman and has 11 goals and 42 points, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trailing by just two points with the same amount of goals.
Stuart Skinner has been fantastic since the team started off the season with a 2-9-1 record. Since November 11, Jay Woodcroft’s last game, Skinner has a .922 save percentage and a 20-4-0 record. Moreover, he tied Grant Fuhr’s record for the longest consecutive win streak by an Oiler goalie. The Oilers are going all the way this season, you heard it here first.
Los Angeles Kings:
22-13-8, 138 goals for, 112 goals against
The Kings have been on a polar opposite trajectory compared to the Oilers. Starting with their penultimate game in December, they spiralled on an eight-game losing streak before winning two of their last four games.
It’s the usual suspects for the Kings at the top of their scoring. Adrian Kempe has 15 goals and 39 points, Anže Kopitar has 14 goals and 39 points, while Kevin Fiala has 11 goals and 39 points. Trevor Moore leads the team in goals with 20 and 32 points, while Quinton Byfield is having a nice season with 13 goals and 31 points.
Former Oiler Cam Talbot has been slowing down as of late, as his save percentage has dropped to .915 with a goals-against average of 2.43. However, they may have found their backup goaltender in David Rittich, as he has a .937 save percentage and a 1.58 goals-against average in seven games played.
The Kings are a good team with a great defence. It’ll be interesting to see what they do at the trade deadline after making big moves last year.
21-20-5, 143 goals for, 146 goals against
The Flames are in a weird spot where they’ll probably sell, but they are also still somewhat competitive. Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, and Elias Lindholm will all become unrestricted free agents at season’s end, and if the Flames can’t sign them, they’ll have to trade them.
Calgary has had a “scoring by committee” approach, unlike the Oilers or Canucks. Blake Coleman, of all players, leads the team in both goals (20) and points (39), already setting a new career-high in the latter. Yegor Sharangovich isn’t far behind him, as he has 19 goals and 32 points, as that trade is starting to look much better for Calgary. Nazem Kadri has 16 goals and 37 points, with an additional eight players having 22 or more points.
Jacob Markström has been fantastic this season, posting a .912 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average. It doesn’t look like he’ll be traded at the deadline, but the Flames would be wise to capitalize on his value sooner rather than later. Especially with top prospect Dustin Wolf looking for NHL time. In five games, the 22-year-old has an .893 save percentage and 3.46 goals-against average, but was incredibly impressive in 2022-23 with Calgary’s AHL team, owning a .932 save percentage and a 2.09 goals-against average in 55 games played.
It looks like it’ll only be a matter of time before Calgary is out of contention, but it’ll be fun to watch what they do at the March 8 deadline.
19-18-9, 127 goals for, 137 goals against
At one point, the Seattle Kraken had a massive Oiler-esque win streak of their own, maxing out at nine wins. However, they’re now on a four-game skid and are needing wins soon to remain in the mix.
Like the Flames, the Kraken lack a true superstar, as Oliver Bjorkstrand leads the team in points with 12 goals and 36 points. Defenceman Vince Dunn is hot on his trail with eight goals and 35 points, while Jared McCann leads the team with 18 goals and 30 points. Eeli Tolvanen has surpassed his career-high with 12 goals and 29 points.
Joey Daccord has been nothing shy of fantastic this season, as he has a 13-7-8 record in 30 games played, along with a .922 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average. With Philipp Grubauer out, Chris Driedger has appeared in just three games and has a .917 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average, but Seattle has to be careful not to burn out Daccord.
As you may know, the Oilers and Kraken have a budding rivalry after Yanni Gourde decided to jump into Mattias Ekholm’s head. He was suspended for two games, with the next meeting between the teams on March 2. Hopefully, the Kraken will be well out of a playoff spot by that point.
A look at the Wild Card situation:
Like in the last Pacific Division notebook, we’ll quickly look at the Central Division teams that are also fighting for a Wild Card spot.
The Nashville Predators currently occupy the second Wild Card spot with a 25-20-1 record and 51 points. In recent times, it’s been reported that the Predators are listening to offers for Juuse Saros, but the preference is to extend him. At this point, the Oilers don’t really even need him with how Skinner has played.
The Arizona Coyotes currently sit four games back of a Wild Card spot but with two games in hand on the Predators. They are tied in points with the Flames in Kraken, but also have two games in hand on them.
St. Louis Blues:
Like the Coyotes, the Blues have two games in hand on the Predators, but with a 22-20-2 record, they are five points back of Nashville. If they’re far away from a playoff spot by the deadline, maybe they’d consider trading Kevin Hayes to the Oilers?
The Wild are still technically in the race as they have a 20-21-5 record with 45 points. They’ve won their last two games and have a 4-5-1 record over their last 10, but they’re almost out of the race.
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