Pacific Division Weekly: The Battle of California is back

The three California teams are going to duke it out for a Wild Card spot eventually.

So far in the season, the San Jose Sharks haven’t seen many of their division-mates, marking the first game against a Pacific team when they visited the Calgary Flames this week. They won’t see another one until Dec. 7, when they’ll be seeing ... the Calgary Flames. Huh.

Until then, here’s how the Pacific is playing out:

Anaheim Ducks (8-4-3)

No one look, but the Anaheim Ducks are on an eight-game point streak and six-game win streak, climbing to second in the Pacific this week — though they also lead in games played, with 15. Sure, it’s been a string of easy wins, taking down the Arizona Coyotes (3-1), St. Louis Blues (4-1), Vancouver Canucks (3-2, OT) and Seattle Kraken (7-4) this week, but things are really clicking for Anaheim’s forwards.

The Ducks were also the talk of the league this week as general manager Bob Murray was suspended and eventually resigned, entering an alcohol abuse program this week. As the NHL responds to the investigations into the Chicago Blackhawks, they made it clear to teams that abuse of any form needs to be reported and it is believed that this memo empowered Ducks employees to report Murray’s verbal and mental abuse of staff, players and coaches. Jeff Solomon has been named interim general manager.

Calgary Flames (7-3-3)

Are the Flames starting to fizzle out? It’s been a rough week in Alberta. After losing out on Jack Eichel, the Flames closed out a five-game homestand with an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars, a 6-0 victory over the New York Rangers and a 4-1 loss to the Sharks. They hit the road for a seven-game road trip midweek, starting it off with a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

Obviously, Saturday’s decisive win over New York was a high point of the week. Johnny Gaudreau had a 2-goal game, but more impressive was Matthew Tkachuk, who racked up 1 goal and 3 assists (all primary points, and all but 1 assist at 5-on-5).

Edmonton Oilers (10-2-0)

We’re just going to have to deal with the Oilers being good for this season, alright? I don’t like it, either, but whatever. We can give them one decent season every six years or so. It’s fine.

If you’ve been waiting for a rare Oilers loss, this week was a delight for you. On Friday, the Rangers held out until overtime, still eking out a loser point in the 6-5 loss to the Oilers. The team traveled to the States, where they hilariously fell to the surprisingly good Detroit Red Wings, 4-2. They bounced back just fine two days later, taking down the Boston Bruins 5-3. The Carolina Hurricanes are the only team with fewer losses than Edmonton, and they’ve yet to lose two in a row.

Thursday night’s game in Boston honored Colby Cave, who tragically passed in April 2020 from a brain bleed. He played parts of five seasons in the Bruins’ organization before being claimed off waivers and playing two seasons with the Oilers. It was the first time the teams have met since his passing, due to COVID.

Los Angeles Kings (8-5-1)

California is battling back this week, and the Kings are on a seven-game win streak. It’s been a lot of tight, low-scoring affairs, with several loser points given up in the process, so it feels a bit less impressive than the Ducks’ week. Still, the Kings are clawing their way out of the hole they dug with the six-game losing streak they were previously on, and into fourth place in the division.

Though the Kings gave up a loser point to both the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens this week, they also put up 5 goals on the Toronto Maple Leafs en route to a 5-1 win and shutout the Ottawa Senators last night.

A resurgence from goaltender Jonathan Quick certainly doesn’t hurt. The 35-year-old has a .935 save percentage, allowing an average of fewer than 2 goals per game. He’s earned eight starts, versus younger netminder Cal Peterson’s six.

Seattle Kraken (4-9-1)

No one feels good about the fact that Seattle is bad, even if it’s the only thing keeping the California teams in the race for playoffs to this part. The Kraken pulled out just one win this week, last Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.

The 5-2 victory didn’t provide much in the way of momentum, as the Kraken went on a three-game losing streak. The Coyotes, who are hard-pressed to find a win these days, beat the Kraken 5-4 on Saturday, the Vegas Golden Knights beat them 4-2 on Tuesday and last night, they came home to loss 7-4 to the Ducks.

It seems like the biggest difference between the last two expansion teams is that Vegas took a franchise goaltender in their first season. Seattle has struggled to get consistency in net.

Vancouver Canucks (5-7-2)

If there’s one thing that will never change, no matter what division they’re in, the Vancouver Canucks aren’t going to be good. Second-to-last in the Pacific currently. they too had just one win this week.

On the end of a homestand, they lost 3-2 to the Nashville Predators on Friday before bouncing back to a huge 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday and a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ducks on Tuesday. The team left for a short road trip that began last night with a 7-1 loss in Denver to the Colorado Avalanche.

Despite the team’s lack of success, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes are deciding to have themselves a season as the Canucks’ two scoring leaders. Miller scored 2 goals in the win over Dallas, both assisted by Hughes, who also earned an assist on an Elias Pettersson goal in that game.

Vegas Golden Knights (8-6-0)

Vegas winning four of their five games this week really ends this on a bummer, huh? Their one loss came on Sunday against the Red Wings, losing 5-2. As long as the goaltender shows up to play, Vegas is still going to be a contender. They score 19 total goals in five games this week while allowing 12, with 5 of those coming in the loss to Detroit.

Center Nolan Patrick missed a 4-2 win over the Kraken and 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild this week with an undisclosed injury and is considered day-to-day. In better injury news, today Jack Eichel finally underwent the disc replacement surgery he had been begging Sabres’ management to allow him to get since this summer and it was successful. Though we obviously will hate the Golden Knights getting even better in a few months, a wrong is finally being set right. Good for him.