Like the Atlantic Division, the Pacific has more than its fair share of bad hockey teams. At last look, both divisions have five of the eight teams on the negative side of goal differentials.
In the Pacific Division, this was not totally unexpected with Arizona and Vancouver in complete rebuild mode. However, when we looked at the preseason NHL odds for futures to win this division, Edmonton and Anaheim were the two top choices by oddsmakers. Currently, both these teams are floundering, to put it mildly, although the Oilers are showing signs of turning things around.
Conversely, few gave Los Angeles a chance to win division and Vegas, it is an expansion team, so what could it possibly do? Plenty, it turns out. So what in the world do we do with this division when it comes to making NHL picks? Great question!
Why Has Los Angeles Played So Much Better?
It was a given the Kings would have an excellent defense like they have for years, which helped them win Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. What had caused the slippage is the offense, as those big teams Los Angeles previously had could just wear down the opposition. However, the game changed and the Kings were left behind in the free-flowing speed game that is now in vogue.
Last season the Kings were 24th scoring, and they have made the jump to 12th and not sacrificed one bit of defense, ranking 1st in goals allowed. If L.A. can juice up the power play (26th), it could start to take control of division.
What Is Wrong With Anaheim and Edmonton?
Anaheim was not an offensive juggernaut last season, finishing 18th in scoring. As of this writing, the Ducks did not have one player with double-digit goals this season, and that is why they are 29th in scoring. Anaheim was going to depend on top scorers Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, who are all 32 or older, and hope the younger players would contribute. Getzlaf has played only 11 games with injuries and Kesler has yet to suit up this season. The Ducks have disappointed in part to reliance on the past.
After a wonderful season a year ago, the Oilers have no answers. Edmonton has not been above .500 since Game 2 of the season. Other then superstar Connor McDavid, there has not been enough consistent scoring from the top three lines, though it has been somewhat better recently. The defense has been an eyesore all year and is 24th in goals allowed. With special teams such an important part of today's NHL, ranking 23rd on the power play and 30th in killing penalties will not help the Oilers move up in the standings. Nor will it draw support from sharp hockey bettors.
Coyotes Remain Outstanding Play-Against Material
As noted by another fine SBR hockey analyst about a month ago, you have to consider playing against Arizona every single game. While we understand the rebuild, for long suffering Coyotes fans by the time this franchise is playoff ready, it might be relocated.