Early Season Report Cards: NHL Pacific Division Summary

Pacific Division summary
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The 2021-22 NHL season is well underway. With most teams having played at least 10 games, we as fans are beginning to build a general impression of how each team’s season is shaping up. In this summary series, we take a closer look at each division and evaluate how each team has done in their first month of the season. This is a breakdown of the big questions facing each team as they entered the season and whether they are playing over, under, or right on par with expectations. This article will cover the Pacific Division Summary.

NHL Pacific Division Summary: Early Season Report Cards

Pacific Division Summary – Edmonton Oilers: 9 -1- 0 (18 pts)

Season Stats

4.4 GF/G (1st)

2.8 GA/G (11th)

50.0 PP% (1st)

86.2 PK% (6th)

Analysis

The Oilers are positioned right where many pundits had them at the beginning of the year—atop the Pacific Division standings. The team leads the league in goals scored and that’s due in large part to their lethal power play. Edmonton’s power play is firing at an astronomical 50% (15/30), which continues to stay on pace to break the single-season record. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid continue to pace the offence with both averaging over two points a game. McDavid hasn’t been held off the scoresheet as of yet and has a ridiculous eight multipoint games to start the year.

Aside from the two phenoms, Edmonton is getting plenty of secondary scoring from the rest of their offensive group. Zach Hyman has fit in seamlessly and has already potted seven goals. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the league in assists and Jesse Puljujarvi is building on where he left off last season, already at double digits in points.

The question heading into the season would be if 40-year-old netminder Mike Smith could replicate his performance from last year. Well, two games into the season it seemed to be a ‘yes’. But an injury has shelved the starting netminder, and like last year, the Oilers have had to lean on back-up goalie Mikko Koskinen early on. The difference this year is that Koskinen has ramped up his own game. Mikko has provided quality starts and owns a 7-1 record with 2.54 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage.

The Oilers are off to their best start in franchise history. And this looks to be the most complete team assembled during the Connor McDavid era. Expect the wins to continue.

Grade: A+

Pacific Division Summary – Calgary Flames: 7-1-3 (17 pts)

Season Stats

3.64 GF/G (5th)

2.00 GA/G (2nd)

26.3 PP% (7th)

88.3 PK% (8th)

Analysis

The Flames were a tough one to predict at the start of the year. With all the drama surrounding their core, pundits had mixed feelings about whether they would be a playoff team or lottery squad. 11 games into the year and they are looking to be the former. 

Calgary has easily found the back of the net with Elias Lindholm, already tallying seven goals. I think it’s safe to say that any questions surrounding the consistency of his production can be put to rest. The Flames red-hot offence has been complimented by even hotter goaltending. Jacob Markstrom has flipped the script from last season’s abysmal performance. Through nine starts he sports a 1.65 GAA and .942 SV% and four shutouts.

With the departure of Mark Giordano in the expansion draft, experts speculated that would be the start of the exodus out of Calgary. General manager Brad Treliving decided to start the year with the same group and after this hot-start, it’s safe to say he’s going to take one more kick at the can with these guys. Those goaltending numbers are sure to cool a bit but it’s completely plausible for Calgary to continue their winning ways and finish the year as a top-two team in the Pacific. This start is no fluke. 

Grade: A

Pacific Division Summary – Anaheim Ducks: 5-4-3 (13 pts)

Season Stats

3.17 GF/G (11th)

2.92 GA/G (21st)

26.2 PP% (8th)

84.6 PK% (11th)

Analysis

Here is another team with a surprise start. The Ducks are in the midst of a good rebuild and have come out of the gates flying. Coach Dallas Eakins has got this group playing with confidence. And if you’ve been watching their games, everyone looks like they are having fun. But it’s easy to play fast and loose when there’s no pressure.

Forward Troy Terry is off to a blistering start. Before the start of the year, his PPG average was below 0.5. After 11 games he has amassed seven goals and 13 points. Was his lack of production due to a weaker supporting cast around him years prior? Or, has he finally been given the opportunity to step out into his own on the top line? Having elite playmaker Ryan Getzlaf centering him has surely helped his breakout this season.

Entering the 2021-22 season, fans were wondering if we’d finally get a full look at star rookie, Trevor Zegras. Although his five points in 11 games may not be the best of the rookies, his play has been incredible. He drives his line and creates high-quality scoring chances with his creativity and energetic play.

This team is the real deal. They have shown poise and maturity in tight games and are coming away with valuable points most nights. The team should continue to battle for a wildcard spot as the year progresses.

Grade: B+

Pacific Division Summary – San Jose Sharks: 6-4-1 (13 pts)

Season Stats

2.91 GF/G (15th)

2.92 GA/G (21st)

26.2 PP% (8th)

84.6 PK% (11th)

Analysis

The Sharks are defying expectations. San Jose currently sits third in the Pacific and has looked nothing like the team that finished 7th in the Honda West division last season. Timo Meier is off to a great start and is on pace to have himself a career year. The injection of rookies Jasper Weatherby and William Eklund had provided nice depth scoring, but Eklund has now been sent back to his native Sweden to finish out the season in the SHL. To top it off, the Sharks are getting the type of production from Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson that they anticipated when they were signed to their big tickets in Silicon Valley.

We expected to watch a goaltender battle between Adin Hill and James Reimer. But the veteran Reimer has seemed to pull away with the starter job with three wins and a 1.60 GAA and .946 SV% over five starts. Now the odds Reimer keeps these numbers up the entire season are unlikely. Goalies go on hot streaks all the time. But that level of confidence and belief in his game can be enough to string together enough quality starts to keep this Sharks team in the playoff hunt.

The resurgence in the play of Karlsson and Burns has helped to address the question of who would fill the void in offence left by the absence of Evander Kane. That, paired with hot-starts by Meier and Logan Couture, seems to answer that question. Are the Sharks over performing with this start? Yes. They have been fun to watch but with so many players performing above expectations it’s unlikely they continue to run this hot. A fall in the standings won’t come as a surprise but they shouldn’t fall as far as to not compete for a wildcard spot.

Grade: B

Pacific Division Summary – Los Angeles Kings: 5-5-1 (11 pts)

Season Stats

2.64 GF/G (24th)

2.82 GA/G (16th)

20.5 PP% (17th)

70.0 PK% (27th)

Analysis

The Kings are sitting 6th in the Pacific and this is where pundits had placed them to start the year. The Kings have six losses on the year and all of them came in one bunch. A six-game losing streak at the beginning of the year was emphasized by back-to-back losses to the St. Louis Blues—where they were outscored 10-3. But the Kings turned it around by taking advantage of two favourable matchups against the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres and rode those wins to a redemption game against the Blues in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.

The question to start the year for the rebuilding Kings was how many of their rookies will get time to develop with the big club? Unfortunately, the Kings were hit with bad news with Quinton Byfield going down with an injury before the start of the year. Alex Turcotte has started in the AHL, and Brandt Clarke was sent back to Barrie of the OHL. Kale Clague was recently inserted into the lineup though. Kale has started the season with a three-game point streak and looks right at home on the Kings’ blueline. And rookie forward Arthur Kaliyev has had a nice start to his career with five points in 10 games thus far.

Anze Kopitar is doing what he does and is carrying the Kings’ offence with 14 points in 11 games. Drew Doughty saw a resurgence in his game but a collision with Dallas’ Jani Hakanpaa has him sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. His absence on the blueline has left a big hole and there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the roster who can fill that void. It’s uncertain when we will see the long-time King return to the lineup. Expect to see more losses than wins for this Kings’ team.

Grade: C+

Pacific Division Summary – Vegas Golden Knights: 6-5-0 (12 pts)

Season Stats

2.73 GF/G (21st)

3.00 GA/G (23rd)

9.5 PP% (31st)

80.0 PK% (20th)

Analysis

Vegas was predicted to take the Pacific Division crown but early injuries to Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty have taken them out of the hunt early. Vegas now lacks any real game-changer to drive their offence. And if you haven’t realized the importance of those two to the Vegas lineup, look no further than their atrocious power play. They have converted two times in 21 opportunities so far. It will be lean times for the Golden Knights as they wait for their stars to return to the lineup.

The question for Vegas coming into this season was if newly acquired Nolan Patrick would be a stud or a bust. The former 2nd overall pick did not pan out in Philadelphia and is getting a fresh start in Vegas. In four games he had one point. However, his season was put on hold after being put on the IR with an undisclosed injury.

Depending on how long Stone and Pacioretty are out, the Golden Knights may be hard-pressed to get back into the playoff race. They have kept their heads above water with a .500 record but the Pacific is turning out to be more competitive than most people thought. The return of Stone, ‘Patches, and a productive power play will go a long way in turning this around. But this may be the first time in franchise history Vegas fails to qualify for the playoffs, unless newly acquired Jack Eichel returns from his neck surgery ready to go.

Grade: C

 

Pacific Division Summary – Seattle Kraken: 4-7-1 (9 pts)

Season Stats

2.83 GF/G (18th)

3.33 GA/G (8th)

7.9 PP% (32nd)

85.1 PK% (17th)

Analysis

If you were expecting the Kraken to be like the Golden Knights in their inaugural season, then you are going to be thoroughly disappointed. This team was not built like Vegas, nor was it intended to be. Much like Vegas right now, Seattle lacks any star power up front to drive the offence. 

General manager Ron Francis was heavily criticized when he built his team. Most thought he under-utilized the team’s greatest strength during the expansion draft: cap space. But Ron has stood by his decision. He believes the team he built will be competitive but is preaching the patience game with its fanbase. 12 games into a franchise’s start is too small a sample size to get any indication of what they are capable of. It takes time for an entirely new roster to gel and build chemistry.

This team has shown flashes of brilliance so it may not be out of the cards to turn this season around. Jordan Eberle has picked up five goals in his last five games, and Jaden Schwartz has turned it up with six points in his last five games. We are seeing improvements but I, for one, am not a believer in this being a playoff team. But I also don’t think they belong at the bottom of the standings. Let’s hope we see the chemistry continue to build for the Kraken.

Grade: C-

Pacific Division Summary – Vancouver Canucks: 4-6-1 (9 pts)

Season Stats

2.36 GF/G (28th)

2.64 GA/G (8th)

14.0 PP% (25th)

66.7 PK% (29th)

Analysis

Vancouver has been a disappointment to start the year. Before the season began we asked, was last season’s slide a fluke or the real Canucks? Whelp looks like we might have our answer. It was easy to write off last year’s blunder as a result of COVID wrecking havoc on their roster. Their season was on hold for 24 days. Additionally, their condensed schedule was brutal on the players. But perhaps we used that excuse too conveniently as a way to cover up more glaring problems with this roster.

Four of Vancouver’s six losses were decided by one goal. So it’s not as if the Canucks are getting blown out. The Canucks goaltending tandem of Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak has delivered. Those two have given the Canucks a chance every night. But it is the absence of secondary scoring that is letting the Canucks down. 

Vancouver is getting great production from forwards J.T. Miller and Conor Garland, and defenceman Quinn Hughes continues to produce as one of the elite defencemen in the league. It’ll go a long way for this team if star Swede, Elias Pettersson can get his game rolling, who has had one goal in 11 games. He desperately needs to get it going, especially if he wants to justify the extension he signed.

Of the current teams sitting outside of the playoffs in the Pacific, I feel the Canucks are the best of them. Vancouver is in the middle of a seven-game homestead, and they play five of their next nine at home. They have a golden opportunity to take advantage of this schedule and get themselves above .500 in their next 10 games.

Grade: D

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