Pacific Division Weekly: Golden Knights, Ducks leading the way into 2022

Vegas and Anaheim are fighting for first in the division.

As we enter the new year, the next couple of weeks in the NHL are going to look a little bit different. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’re going to be a throwback to last season, with reinstatements of taxi squads, the revolving door of COVID Protocol and postponed games. There was a lot to keep track of amid the return from the extended holiday break, so let’s check in on the San Jose Sharks’ competition in the Pacific Division after the first week of 2022.

Anaheim Ducks (18-11-7)

The Anaheim Ducks must have taken some advice from the Mighty Ducks because these birds are flying. Whether or not their surprising success continues in the new year is another question, but with the creativity in their offense and their excitable young group of players, I don’t see why not.

The Ducks lost the first two games of the week, but ended on a high note, with a win. On Friday, Anaheim lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-1, and then again on Sunday, 4-2 to the Colorado Avalanche. On Tuesday, the team returned home, Bryce Kindopp made his NHL debut and Troy Terry (the unlikeliest of heroes) nabbed a hat trick for a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Calgary Flames (17-8-6)

Canadian teams are in a bit of limbo right now, with so many of their games being postponed due to concerns regarding cross-border COVID regulations. Despite the uncertainty, the Flames aren’t cooling off anytime soon. They won two of the three road games the team played this week.

On Thursday, the Flames bested the Seattle Kraken, 6-4, helped along by Johnny Gaudreau’s three-point night (2 goals, 1 assist). The Flames improved upon their record on Sunday with a crushing 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, and another three-point night (1 goal, 2 assists) from Johnny Hockey, for what was also Chris Tanev’s 600th NHL game. The Flames then lost 6-2 to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Edmonton Oilers (18-14-2)

Oh, the Oilers. Head coach Dave Tippett might be on his way out, but until then the Oilers aren’t too far behind the Flames, with 38 points to the Flames’ 40. Plus, the Oilers have both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatil, who are flip-flopping in the race for the league’s point leader; McDavid has 53 points, and Draisaitl has 52. I’m not gonna lie, it feels a little unfair.

That said, the Oilers lost every game this week, so I can’t feel too jealous. On Friday, the Oilers lost 6-5 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils, before dropping in overtime again versus the New York Islanders the next night. The Tri-State area wasn’t kind to the Oilers, because they lost 4-1 on Monday to the New York Rangers. The Oilers then closed out the week with a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Los Angeles Kings (16-12-5)

The Los Angeles Kings had an easy week, with just two games. And with the amount of work captain Anze Kopitar is putting in on the ice, I can’t say the team doesn’t deserve it. The Kings went to a shootout against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, winning 2-1, in the second game of a seven-game homestand. Their second (and last) game of the week came on Saturday, with a 6-3 win over the Flyers to ring in 2022.

Seattle Kraken (10-19-4)

The Kraken are missing Turbo (Brandon Tanev), I am missing Turbo … but the team did announce on Thursday that his knee surgery was successful and that he should make a full recovery by the start of the 2022-23 season.

To commemorate his absence, the Kraken lost that night, 6-4, to the Flames. On Saturday, defender Will Borgen scored his first NHL goal, in what was an unfortunate 5-2 loss to the Canucks. The scheduled home games against the Islanders and Ottawa Senators this week have been postponed to a later date.

Vancouver Canucks (16-15-3)

Whether it’s the divestment of Travis Green and Jim Benning, or Bruce Boudreau finding the magic key to unlocking the team’s success, the Canucks are entering 2022 with a new look. The team began the week with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Kings on Thursday (earning a point in the second half of a back-to-back series on the road) but kicked off 2022 with a 5-2 win over the Kraken on Saturday. That game also marked Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 800th NHL game and Tanner Pearson earned a Gordie Howe hat trick. Talk about a way to start the new year!

Wednesday’s game against the Islanders has been postponed to a later date.

Vegas Golden Knights (22-13-1)

The Golden Knights are sitting at the top of the Pacific Division, just two points above the Ducks, with 45 points to their 43. If you told me at the start of 2021 that the Ducks would be giving the Golden Knights a run for the money, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Vegas closed out the year with a 3-1 win over the aforementioned Ducks at home on New Year’s Eve, but rang in 2022 with a 5-4 overtime loss on Sunday to the Winnipeg Jets. On Tuesday, Logan Thompson earned his first NHL start as a goaltender, in what was an unfortunate 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators.