Tag: pacific division

George Parros, Raitis Ivanans

Breaking down the race for the West’s final playoff spots


Earlier this week, the NBC Sports Network gang took a look at the Western Conference playoff picture, as you can watch in the following clip:

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Want a more detailed playoff picture? NBC’s standings page provides more in-depth numbers, from games played to full records.

source:  (click to enlarge)

No one’s truly untouchable, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s say that the Vancouver Canucks and every Central Division team not named the Columbus Blue Jackets are safe for now. With that in mind, let’s look at the two most interesting races.

Kings, Sharks battle for Pacific

Much like the Southeast Division race, the top two Pacific teams could get a gift of a top-three seed if they win the division. The difference is that the gap between the San Jose Sharks (60 points in 47 games played) and the Los Angeles Kings (58 points in 50 games played) is larger than the one between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers. Still, one must at least acknowledge the Kings’ chance to make a mini-run at take the Pacific.

Race for the bottom two spots

For the sake of the bigger picture, the Kings should be considered a part of the race for one of the bottom two spots. They’re generally in a good position, although they’ll have to survive on the road with 20 of their last 32 games away from home.

Wild vs. Avalanche

The next group one can notice is the eighth and ninth seeds are the Minnesota Wild (eighth place with 55 points in 49 contests) and Colorado Avalanche (ninth place with 54 points in 51 contests). This week’s Wild win gave them a nice buffer ahead of Colorado and it doesn’t stop there. The Wild play 19 of their last 33 games in Minnesota while the Avalanche only has one extra home game (16 in Colorado, 15 on the road).

Three at 52

The Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes take spots 10-12 with 55 points apiece. The 10th place Stars are in a decent position to move up since they’ve only played 48 games and already piled up 25 wins. Sixteen of their final games are at home while 18 are on the road, so it’s not all great news.

Both Calgary and Phoenix reached 52 in 50 games with the Flames in the No. 11 spot because they have an extra victory. Calgary will play 19 games at home and 13 away while the Coyotes play 18 games in Phoenix and 14 on the road, so their dreams are far from dead.


Overall, I’d guess that the Sharks have a great shot at the Pacific Division, the Kings should get a lower seed and Minnesota at least has a head start on eighth place. Colorado’s ninth spot might be inflated, the Stars have some games in hand and Phoenix/Calgary have enough home games to make some noise. We haven’t even discussed the Anaheim Ducks.

When it comes to the West, you never really know … unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The NHL’s best bargain contracts: Pacific Division

Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf

The hockey world tends to focus on the most regrettable contracts rather than the best ones because let’s face it: it’s more enjoyable to make fun of Brian Campbell‘s deal than to linger on Dustin Brown‘s bargain contract. That being said, clever GMs deserve credit for either finding the right timing to sign a player, judging their value better than most or simply fostering a climate in which a player will take a pay cut. This series of posts will take a look at every team to see which (if any) players deserve to be called bargains.

Notes: entry-level deals don’t count because they have built-in maximum levels. “Loophole” contracts will be considered, but they won’t receive as much consideration because of their inherent salary cap dishonesty. Bought out players will be considered for their current cap hits. I also think $6 million is a reasonable – if arbitrary – cutoff point for a true bargain player.

Anaheim Ducks – Every dollar counts with this cost-conscious team.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf ($5.325 million each) – The two power forwards have been intrinsically linked ever since they came up through the Ducks system together. Getzlaf had the upper hand for quite some time – and it’s possible he still might be better in the long view – but Perry is the one with the Hart Trophy on his resume. Either way, they consist of 2/3 of the scariest line in the NHL.

Bobby Ryan ($5.1M) – Ryan completes that trio at a slightly lower price. The American born power forward’s career trajectory keeps pointing upward as he scored a career-high 71 points last season.

source: Getty ImagesDallas Stars – Speaking of cost-conscious teams, the Stars lost Brad Richards but that won’t end their money troubles. They better sell the team somewhat soon because their budding star Jamie Benn is in the final year of his entry-level deal.

Loui Eriksson ($4.1M) Can you be an All-Star and yet remain underrated? Probably not, but Eriksson is a close example. We’ll see if he can maintain his largely unheralded scoring ways without Richards feeding him perfect passes.

Stephane Robidas ($3.3M) – He might not be an ideal top defenseman, but the Stars expect him to act the part. Robidas’ can do a little of everything fairly well.

Alex Goligoski ($1.83M) – The former Penguins defenseman is a bit of an adventure in his own end, but he provides the offensive boost the Stars asked for when they traded James Neal to get him.

Honorable mentions – Kari Lehtonen nearly saved the Stars’ season last year, but he needs to prove that his injury-prone ways are a thing of the past. Sheldon Souray’s lack of foot speed could doom him, but his slapper could make him easier to forgive.

source: Getty ImagesLos Angeles Kings – Could the Kings be serious contenders next season? My gut reaction is to say “Yes.”

Simon Gagne ($3.5M) – If Gagne can stay reasonably healthy – a big if, especially since the Kings seem to carry an injury hex of their own – he could be a very nice bargain for Los Angeles.

Dustin Brown ($3.2M) – The Kings’ captain draws a ton of penalties, throws a lot of hits and scores plenty of goals. Amazingly, his bargain deal will continue until July 2014 – that’s three more seasons at a reduced rate.

Jonathan Quick ($1.8M) – A lot of people are rooting for fellow cheap young goalie Jonathan Bernier to usurp him, but Quick turned in a 35-win season and put up the kind of save percentage (.918) that will make it hard for anyone to steal his job. I thought he was just a workhorse goalie going into 2010-11, but now I’m sold.

Honorable mention: Mike Richards’ two-way play should make him worth $5.7 million, but it’s enough money that he might not be a steal (especially since his numbers might not be that great at times in Los Angeles’ tight system).

Phoenix Coyotes – Are the ‘Yotes in trouble after losing crucial goalie Ilya Bryzgalov? I’m sorry to say that it might be the case.

Keith Yandle ($5.25M) – I know that his contract isn’t cheap, but Yandle’s been a star for the Coyotes. Hopefully the loss of Breezy and the increase in pressure from a new deal won’t ruin his mojo.

Lauri Korpikoski ($1.8M) – The Korpedo had a career year in 2010-11, with 19 goals and 40 points. Hovering around the 20-goal mark would make his contract a nice value.

Honorable mentions: Mike Smith will be a steal if he pans out, but that’s a big if. Martin Hanzal is a big center who makes life difficult for some of the Pacific Division’s best scorers.

source: APSan Jose Sharks – The teal-clad bunch will sport a new, faster look next season.

Joe Pavelski ($4M) – The “Big Pavelski” is responsible defensively and increasingly dangerous on offense, scoring a career-high 66 points last season.

Brent Burns ($3.5M) – For one more season, the All-Star defenseman will be a bargain.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($3.1M) – The Pickle remains a nice asset, even if his offensive numbers might not rebound to his 2008-09 form.

Colin White ($1M) – Like Scott Hannan, his flaws are easier to accept at $1 million.

Honorable mention: Ryane Clowe seemed overpaid before last season only to put together one of hist best campaigns.


Feel free to point out any glaring omissions or faulty inclusions. Again, remember: players on their entry-level deals don’t count, so that’s why you won’t see the Logan Coutures of the world.

Click here for the Atlantic Division version.

Click here for the Central Division version.

Click here for the Northeast Division version.

Click here for the Northwest Division version.

Tonight in the West: Sharks dismantle Kings to clinch Pacific crown

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau

Western Conference

p-1. Vancouver – 113 pts (3 GR)
y-2. San Jose – 103 pts (3 GR)
y-3. Detroit – 102 pts (3 GR)
4. Phoenix – 96 pts (3 GR)
5. Los Angeles – 96 pts (3 GR)
6. Nashville – 95 pts (3 GR)
7. Anaheim – 93 pts (3 GR)
8. Chicago – 92 pts (4 GR)
9. Calgary – 91 pts (2 GR)
10. Dallas – 89 pts (4 GR)

p- clinched Presidents’ Trophy
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

San Jose 6, Los Angeles 1

If tonight’s one-sided game ends up being a first round preview, this battle of California would closely resemble the rivalry between a hammer and a nail.

Simply put, the Sharks were all over the Kings in this game and clinched their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title in the process. Los Angeles came into this game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but the outcome wasn’t in doubt for very long, as San Jose raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period and then answered the Kings’ 2-1 tally with four more in the second. Not much really happened in the third period, except for some extracurricular activity that included two simultaneous fights (one of those surprisingly included Dan Boyle).

Several Sharks earned two-point games, with Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ranking among the players who earned a point and assist each. Joe Thornton also accomplished that task, pushing his career regular season points total to 999.

It wasn’t a great night for Kings goalies, as Jonathan Quick was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots while Jonathan Bernier allowed two more on 19. Meanwhile, Antti Niemi made 30 out of 31 saves to earn his 34th win of the 2010-11 season. (So much for a sophomore slump for the Stanley Cup winner, eh?)

Statistically speaking, Willie Mitchell might have had the worst night with a -4 rating, but few Kings players have a reason to keep their heads high in this one. They are virtually guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, but playing this way without Anze Kopitar makes one wonder if they will be able to make much noise in the merciless West.

Then again, crazy things can happen in the playoffs, and the Kings have the kind of stingy defense and goaltending potential to be a nuisance if the bounces go their way. (I’m not saying I would bet on it, though.)

The Sharks moved into second place in the West while the Kings slid down to fifth place since the Phoenix Coyotes hold the non-shootout win tiebreaker. It seems like this game was an example of two teams moving in different directions, but we’ll see once the playoffs begin.

Pacific Division Watch (March 19)

Shane Doan, Dany Heatley

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder, Underlined = clinched division.

Pacific Division outlook (March 19 -March 25th)

1. San Jose Sharks (41-23-8 for 90 pts; 72 Games Played)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. St. Louis (Saturday), home vs. Calgary (Wednesday) and @ Los Angeles (Thursday).

Thoughts: After the next two home games, it’s all Pacific Division matchups for the Sharks. Those closing games include a substantial three games against second place Phoenix, two against Los Angeles and Anaheim, plus one against Dallas. In other words, the Sharks will only have themselves to blame if they let their slim division lead slip away.

2. Phoenix Coyotes (39-23-11 for 89 pts; 73 GP)

Current streak: Five straight wins.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Chicago (Sun), St. Louis (Tues) and Columbus (Thurs).

Thoughts: The best thing about Phoenix’s five game winning streak might be that they won four of those contests on the road. They have a great chance to push past San Jose being that they begin a six-game homestand on Sunday and three games remaining versus the Sharks (two of which are at home). Overall, the ‘Yotes only play two of their last nine games on the road, so they must be taken seriously.

3. Los Angeles Kings (40-26-5 for 85 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Anaheim (Sat), Calgary (Mon) and San Jose (Thurs).

Thoughts: It seems like most of the Pacific teams play the majority of their remaining games against each other, with the Kings holding true to that trend. Their five-game homestand didn’t begin well – their fans booed them, after all – but this is still their best chance to improve their playoff prospects.

4. Dallas Stars (38-24-8 for 84 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home vs. Philadelphia (Sat) and home vs. Anaheim (Wed).

Thoughts: The Stars need to stock up some points in the next two home games – even if they are far from cakewalks – because they face a harrowing five-game road trip beginning next Saturday in Nashville. That trip begins against the Predators and then swings the team through every Pacific Division squad, making it a high stakes group of games. If they can keep their heads above water after those games, their last four contests are relatively palatable. That’s a big if, though.

5. Anaheim Ducks (38-27-5 for 81 pts; 70 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Los Angeles (Sat), home vs. Calgary (Sun), @ Dallas (Wed) and @ Nashville (Thurs).

Thoughts: The rest of March is going to be tough for Anaheim, as they face four of six games on the road against challenging squads. The Ducks’ final five games are against Pacific teams, with two against San Jose and Los Angeles and one contest versus Dallas. It would be awfully interesting if it all came down to their last two games: a home-and-home series with the Kings.

Pacific Division Watch (March 12)

Dallas Stars v San Jose Sharks

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Pacific Division outlook (March 12 -March 18th)

1. San Jose Sharks (39-22-7 for 85 pts; 68 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Rangers (Saturday), @ Chicago (Monday), @ Dallas (Tuesday), home vs. Minnesota (Thursday).

Thoughts: The Sharks have earned at least one point – mostly wins – in all but one game since February 13th. It’ll be tough to keep up their current pace to end the season, though, as San Jose will play against playoff-caliber teams (aside from St. Louis) in every remaining game this season.

2. Dallas Stars (37-23-8 for 82 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Los Angeles (Sun), San Jose (Tues) and Chicago (Thurs).

Thoughts: After going 3-0-1 in a four-game road trip, the Stars began their seven-game road trip with a regulation win and a shootout loss. With five games left on that stand, the Stars can make some serious waves. Of course, Dallas will then play five games in a row on the road, so we’ll see how it goes.

3. Los Angeles Kings (38-25-5 for 81 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: Away vs. Dallas (Sun), @ Nashville (Tues) and home vs. St. Louis (Thurs).

Thoughts: The Kings are 6-2-1 in their last nine games. After they play in Dallas and Nashville, the team will play their next five in Los Angeles. It could be a really up-and-down month in the Pacific Division, as we’ve discussed before.

4. Phoenix Coyotes (35-23-11 for 81 pts; 69 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Four away games – against Anaheim (Sun), Calgary (Tues), Edmonton (Thurs) and Vancouver (Fri).

Thoughts: After a serious bit of stumbling, the Coyotes seem like they’ve gotten things together by going 2-0-1 in their last three games. They face a tough week that might challenge their rebuilt momentum, though, with four road games against three tough teams. Sunday’s game against the Ducks might be the biggest of all, although Tuesday’s contest against the Flames is important as well.

5. Anaheim Ducks (37-26-5 for 79 pts; 68 GP)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: Two home games: vs. Phoenix (Sun) and St. Louis (Wed).

Thoughts: After this week, the Ducks play six of their next eight games on the road. This team is incredibly streaky yet resilient, but their mediocre 16-15-3 away record indicates that the end of March might cause some serious damage to their playoff hopes. Then again, this team keeps beating the odds, so you never know.