When Mike Babcock is asked to identify the top teams in the league, he looks at one statistic, and that’s goal differential.
In 2013-14, the Pacific Division’s top three teams in the standings — Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles — finished with a combined goal differential of plus-138. No other division’s top three teams had a combined number that high.
As you can see, it’s been a far different story in 2014-15:
Let’s go through the top five teams in order (everyone can agree the bottom two aren’t very good, right?)
Anaheim — Great win-loss record, obviously, but the Ducks’ possession stats remain mediocre and their 20-0-6 record in one-goal games raises a potential red flag. Are they a good team? Yes. Are they an elite team? That remains to be seen.
Vancouver — Got off to an enthusiastic start, but have plateaued of late. The Canucks, as most predicted prior to the season, are a bubble team. Nobody would be shocked if they made the playoffs, and even with the good-sized cushion they’ve built, nobody would be shocked if they missed.
San Jose — In the last week, they’ve lost twice to St. Louis by a score of 7-2. So yeah…that’s not great. On the whole, the Sharks have just been pretty average:
Los Angeles — The Stanley Cup champs remain very good at puck possession, but last night’s 4-3 loss to the Rangers (who, by the way, won in Anaheim the night before) was the fifth time in the last month they’ve surrendered at least four goals. “We’ve got to continue to be better checkers right through our lineup,” Darryl Sutter said. “You don’t win in this league without checking. … We had some top players tonight not in the checking mood.” And that’s been the case a little too often this season.
Calgary — The Flames started well, record-wise, but their underlying numbers were always a concern. They’ve won just four times in their last 14.