It's been a little over two weeks since we last came to you back on November 24th. At that time, the Kings were in a literal tie with the San Jose Sharks for 1st in the Pacific (as in, they had the exact same record and were tied in every single tiebreaker, right down to head-to-head record and goal differential). Those pre-US Thanksgiving days seem so long ago now, because as we speak Los Angeles has opened up a stunning nine point lead over the Sharks for the division crown.
Just let that sink in for a minute, folks. The Kings could go on a four-game losing streak and are still guaranteed to lead the division. We're in December. This is incredible and also unprecedented in recent Kings history. I think one of my fellow Jewels bloggers said it best, actually:
This is basically how I expected each Kings regular season to go for the past five years and I was always wrong— Andrew Leafman (@andrewleafman) December 9, 2015
Yup. Absolutely this. It's a little early for a victory lap, of course, but who were the only two people to pick the Kings in 1st when we did our preseason predictions roundtable? Thank you, thank you, it was nothing. We're just two people, standing here in the rain, asking you to recognize that the Kings are great.
So how did the Kings open up such a wide lead in such a short period of time, you ask? It's simple- they put up a fantastic 5-0-1 record in their past six games, while all the teams directly trailing them put up records that ranged from bad to awful (as you'll see momentarily). The result is the Kings ruling over the Pacific as undoubtedly the only team in this garbage fire actually deserving of a playoff spot. Think of it like this: if the Kings were in the Western Conference's other division, the Central, their 37 points would be a very respectable 2nd place. If the Sharks, 2nd in the Pacific (and thus currently in a playoff spot) were in the Central, their 28 points would put them....tied with the Winnipeg Jets for sixth place! They would be five points behind Nashville for the 2nd Wild Card! That is, frankly, incredible, and should tell you what an absolute dumpster fire this division is right now.
So let's get into the individual teams and how they've fared recently. Below you'll find the current standings, with all advanced stats being at even strength and coming to you courtesy of War on Ice.
|1. Los Angeles||
|2. San Jose
1. Los Angeles (last time: 1, record since 11/24: 5-0-1): Obviously it has been a fantastic couple of weeks for the Kings. They've won 5 of 6, gotten points in all 6, and swept a 4-game homestand to put their earlier home ice struggles completely in the rear-view mirror. Along the way the Kings have developed a taste for late comebacks, as they demonstrated yet again last night when they rallied from a 2-0 deficit in Columbus (the tying goal coming with just 1:27 left in regulation). While it's nice to see them pulling off late comebacks, that isn't at all to suggest the Kings are undeserving of their record or getting lucky. They're also leading the league in puck possession yet again, putting up numbers even better than last year so far; even more impressively, they're doing it in all situations. 57.6% at 5v5 leads the league; 57.1% at 5v5 tied leads the league (by an eye-popping 2.7% over the 2nd place Predators); 53.6% when leading by a goal leads the league; 52.2% with any lead, you guessed it, leads the league; and 63.5% when trailing by a goal is a very close 2nd to St. Louis' 64.2%. What this says to me is that the Kings are both adaptable and stay within their system no matter what the score is. They are a fantastic team at controlling the puck in all situations, and they are very deserving of the success they've had so far this season.
2. San Jose (last time: 2, record since 11/24: 1-5-0): It's clearly been a bad couple of weeks for our friends from northern California, as the Sharks dropped 5 of 6, all in regulation. Last time around they were riding high with a 6-1-0 record and we threw some cold water on that, pointing out that Martin Jones was not likely to keep up his .967 even strength sv% he had put up in those 7 games. Well, what is the Sharks' collective sv% in their last 6? That would be an .867. Yes, that's exactly a full tenth worse. Uh, ouch. So just like we said last time, we need to give the same warning in reverse this time: San Jose's goaltending will certainly be better than .867 at evens going forward, so they aren't likely to drop 5 of 6 again anytime soon. However, it isn't like their goaltending submarined fantastic play or anything; the Sharks' Corsi % at evens in those 6 games was just 50.7%. That's certainly not great, especially for a bunch of games they spent a lot of time trailing in. This remains, in my mind, a slightly above-average team that's fortunate to play in a terrible division. They're virtual locks to make the playoffs in the Pacific; they'd be in a fight for their lives anywhere else.
3. Vancouver (last time: 3, record since 11/24: 2-3-2): Speaking of teams fortunate to be in the Pacific, it's everyone's favorite lovers of the loser point, the Vancouver Canucks! In the past 2+ weeks the Canucks have gone from a ".500 team" that was incredibly lucky to be in a playoff spot to a below .500 team that's incredibly lucky to be in a playoff spot. They also now have the worst scoring chance % in the entire league. So yeah, this is a bad hockey team. Luckily for them the team directly behind them is even worse.
4. Arizona (last time: 4, record since 11/24: 3-5-0): If you look up "coming back down to Earth" in the dictionary, you'll see a photo of the Coyotes logo. From November 25th to present, the Coyotes have the worst Corsi at evens in the entire NHL (42.6%). They've gone from mediocre to just plain bad, totally squandering the opportunity they had to catch a floundering Canucks team. They do remain only 1 point back of Vancouver with a game in hand, but they're now tied with the Ducks, who are playing much better and are poised to leapfrog them both. In hindsight, it seems very possible (if not likely) that we'll look back at this period as the time last time the Coyotes were remotely relevant in the Pacific division.
5. Anaheim (last time: 5, record since 11/24: 4-2-1): That "Ducks charge" that stalled out a few weeks back seems to be underway again. The Ducks picked up 9 out of a possible 14 points, very respectable numbers, and they're almost out of the hole they dug themselves early (with still plenty of room left for positive regression, if you look at their PDO). They're now just a point behind Vancouver for the 3rd and final playoff spot in the Pacific; the only thing standing in the way of them and climbing into that spot by the time we do this again is how few games they play. They have just 1 in the next week, which is obviously very odd.
6. Calgary (last time: 6, record since 11/24: 3-2-1): It's been a positive couple of weeks for the Flames, who are trying desperately to turn their season around. In any other division it would be virtually impossible; in this one, they're 4 points back of the Canucks for 3rd with two games in hand, so I guess anything is possible when you play in a garbage fire.
7. Edmonton (last time: 7, record since 11/24: 4-2-1): The Oilers are another team playing better of late, though that's a little deceiving given that 2 of their 4 victories came in the shootout. Still, since this is the Pacific even that modest little 4-2-1 run was enough to move them within 4 points of 3rd place and a playoff spot. Yes, they're still in last. What a garbage division.
So that's what's been going on in the Pacific of late. Let's take a look at what's coming up next:
||Sat 12/12||Sun 12/13||Mon 12/14||Tue 12/15|
That's all for now, see you next time!