Two weeks ago I brought you our first Pacific Snapshot of the season, and much has changed since then. In case you've forgotten what was going on at the time: the Ducks only had one win, Connor McDavid was still a healthy and active hockey player, and the Vancouver Canucks were a loser-point-inflated joke. Well, not everything changed, I guess. Let's take a look at today's standings (all advanced stats are even strength and courtesy War-on-Ice), and then we'll break down the past couple of weeks for all seven teams in more detail (along with how each team has done since our last Snapshot two weeks ago):
|1. Los Angeles||14||9||5||0||18||9||35||29||+6||5-4-0||4-1-0||55.9||55.2||98.9||55.1||52.5|
|3. San Jose
1. Los Angeles (last time: 1, record since: 4-2-0): The Kings have largely continued to play great hockey, having won 9 of 11 games since their season-opening three-game losing streak. They had a tough 4-game set through the brutal Central Division, facing the Predators, Blackhawks, Blues, and Jets (with the Blackhawks & Blues games coming on a back-to-back and 3 of 4 being on the road), and managed to go 3-1-0, which was very impressive. After a slight letdown game at home against Columbus (in which they probably deserved a better fate), they responded by utterly humiliating the Florida Panthers on Saturday. The Kings thus maintain their top spot in this incredibly weak division, and more importantly they are the only team that even approaches "elite" status in the Pacific so far. Their Corsi numbers utterly blow away the field (the Kings nearly hit 56% and are tops in the league, while meanwhile nobody else in the division gets above 50.2%) and their scoring chance % is quite a bit better too (55.1%, while meanwhile 2nd place San Jose is at 53.3). If they can keep playing at such a high level, their first division title since 1991 (which is also, uh, their only division title....yikes) certainly looks like a strong possibility. Up next for the Kings is finishing up a 5-game homestand with games against the Coyotes, Islanders, and Oilers, before embarking on a 5-game Eastern Conference road trip.
2. Vancouver (last time: 4, record since: 3-2-2): The Canucks remain what they've been all year: a truly mediocre team lucky enough to play in a truly awful division. Here's a fun fact for you: the Canucks have lost 9 games total, counting regulation and OTLs. That's two more than San Jose & Arizona, and the same as Anaheim, and yet the Canucks have a three-point cushion on 3rd place. Ridiculous, but that's how this league works I guess. Their underlying numbers remain pretty bad (their Fenwick is okay, I guess), but what can you do? Someone has to be this year's Loser Point Champions, and apparently that someone is the Canucks. Still, they're on a 3-game losing streak in which they've lost to such luminaries as the Devils and Sabres (and have only picked up 1 loser point) so maybe the Canucks are finally starting to come down to where they belong. They're in the middle of a long, mostly Eastern road trip (except for a visit to Winnipeg) and won't play another home game until November 21st. Given their sub-500 home record, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
3. San Jose (last time: 2, record since: 2-4-0): Things have gone badly for the Sharks of late, who hold down the last Pacific playoff spot despite sitting with a .500 record (how many different ways can I say "this division is bad"?). The Sharks have been in win-one, lose-one mode for the past 4 games, managing to beat the Avalanche & Panthers while losing to the Blue Jackets (ha, who loses to th-oh right) and Ducks. Their scoring chance stats remain better than their possession, their PDO is about as close to average as you can get, and they continue to make baffling lineup decisions in the face of injuries. If the Sharks get healthy and start using their players better, I still think they're very clearly the 2nd-best team in this division, but they need to start banking some points because the Ducks sure look like they're coming for them. They wrap up their homestand against the Islanders before heading out on their own 6-game Eastern Conference road trip, because apparently that's just the cool thing for Pacific teams to do right now.
4. Arizona (last time: 3, record since: 2-3-0): I'm not sure if the clock has struck midnight on these Cinderellas just yet, but if it hasn't it's at least 11:50. The Yotes have dropped 3 of their past 4 games, and are about to play the Ducks & Kings in a tough back-to-back, so things could easily get worse for them before it gets better. Their possession numbers still don't look very good, their scoring chance numbers look slightly worse than the last time we did this, and Mike Smith has come back to Earth like a friggin' crater after a hot start; his even-strength save % is down to a .911, and if you look at just the past three weeks (since 10/20) it's an amazingly awful .853. Yeah, that's....not good. If he's anywhere close to the .910 range in even-strength sv% for the rest of the season, the Coyotes have less than no chance at getting back into the top 3, even in this pathetic division.
5. Anaheim (last time: 7, record since: 4-2-1): Yeah, I'm just gonna quote myself directly on this one, after I speculated that this was finally the Ducks' year to just be unlucky and bad: "I just wanted to write that all down, while I still could, before the Ducks win their next ten straight or something, because life isn't fair." The Ducks haven't quite won ten straight yet, but they have won four in a row, so they're almost halfway there! If you're a Ducks hater looking for a silver lining, it's that this is basically their regression back to the pack; remember they were shooting at an almost-impossibly low 2.5% at even strength two weeks ago, which obviously wasn't going to continue. Now today they're sitting at 4.5% on the season; while that's still the worst in the league and unsustainably low, it's at least back within a single percentage point of the next worst teams (Buffalo & Carolina both at 5.2%). They still have some room to regress here, but not nearly as much room as they had a couple weeks ago. And meanwhile, their underlying numbers are all actually worse- Corsi has dropped from 51.9% to 50.2, Fenwick from 49.3 to 48.6, scoring chances from 45.0 to 44.4, and high-danger chances from 45.6 to 42.3 (ouch). Basically, I'm pretty sure the Ducks can regress hard enough to get back into the top 3, especially in this awful division, but I doubt regression alone can carry them to first place (without a major slump by the Kings too, which since this is the Kings we're talking about is always possible!). Regardless, none of the underlying stats say this is the contender they were supposed to be heading into the year, win streak or not.
6. Calgary (last time: 6, record since: 3-3-1): Playing .500 hockey for the past two weeks is certainly an improvement on the 2-6-0 mark they had beforehand, but it's also not going to be good enough to dig them out of the hole they've dug early. Calgary continues to play better hockey than they did last year (possession stats approaching 50% and scoring chance %s that are just above 50), while getting some truly hideous luck (95.5 PDO, driven by a middling 5.4 shooting percentage at evens and an incredibly bad .881 EV SV%, by far the worst in the league and the only team even below .900), and here we are. They're still due for their own bout of regression, but on the other hand their goaltending probably is pretty bad, so they're gonna need to either continue improving in puck possession or start getting very lucky in shooting percentage (like last year) again if they want to even sniff the playoffs, even in this crappy division.
7. Edmonton (last time: 5, record since: 2-4-0): Welcome home, Oilers. After a brief flirtation with maybe just being bad instead of awful, the Oilers now find themselves at the bottom of a truly wretched Pacific division. True, there are some reasons for optimism: their possession stats are better than they've been (though still very much below average) and they have some room to regress on the percentages, but they also are now without Connor McDavid. McDavid had 8 points in 13 games and was a +4.85% Corsi rel, so losing him was pretty bad (yeah, a real hot take here for you: Losing McJesus Was Bad, please subscribe to my newsletter). The Oilers were a below average team WITH McDavid, so barring some kind of amazing run of luck, it's difficult to see how they stay out of the basement without him.
So that's the Pacific in a nutshell: it's bad and they should all feel bad. Except for the Kings, I guess! Yeah!
Here's what the upcoming week looks like for all these garbage teams:
|ARI||@ANA (7:00)||@LA (7:30)
||@ARI (6:00)||-||@LA (7:00)
So the upcoming week sees 4 of 7 teams either starting on or in the midst of an Eastern Conference road trip, which is certainly a fun little scheduling quirk (and the Kings join them in the East next week). The other big story of the week is the suddenly McDavid-less Oilers rolling into town against three Pacific opponents. Can the Oilers show they have some fight left in them, or will they be easy points for the Ducks, Yotes, and Kings?
That's all for this time, but we'll see you back again in a couple weeks!