The Anaheim Ducks won the NHL Pacific Division title a year ago and knocked out the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers en route to a conference final appearance. While the Ducks fell short of winning the west, they still paid a dear price for their lengthy playoff run. Ryan Kesler was lost during the playoffs and has yet to return, but he’s not alone.
Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Eaves have joined Kesler on the IR in the early portion of the season, while defender Cam Fowler is also on the shelf. The Ducks, down half of their top-six forwards and a top-four defender, have found a way to win six games early and post a 6-6-2 record in their first 14 games. It isn’t a playoff record as of now, but the Ducks have impressed with their ability to stay afloat while they recover.
Save for Eaves, who is in a serious medical battle, the Ducks can expect Fowler, Getzlaf and Kesler all back by the New Year. Once that happens, Anahiem should have the inside track to a divisional playoff spot in the Pacific. Quite impressive, really.
After knocking off old friend Taylor Hall on Friday night, the Oilers collapsed and fell 4-0 to Detroit yesterday at Rogers Place. The Oilers are now 4-8-1 and seven points back of the playoff cutline. This week could put the dagger in Edmonton’s season, as the Oilers play four games on the road, all against the east. Edmonton is a dismal 1-6-1 against eastern teams this season, and will play a pair of afternoon games on the weekend.
The Oilers came into the season as a Stanley Cup hopeful, but they’ve looked more like a lottery team in the season’s first month. General Manager Peter Chiarelli needs to do something fast, or risk watching Connor McDavid’s final entry-level season go down the drain. To put it politely, the Oilers’ current position is flat out unacceptable.
Edmonton likely needs to go 3-1-0 this week just to keep pace and make up a little ground in the playoff race. They are dangerously close to falling out of it completely here.
There were a lot of concerns surrounding the San Jose Sharks in the season’s opening month, but the Sharks have figured it out, winning four in a row and moving to 8-5-0. San Jose, now with 16 points, sits third in the Pacific Division and currently in a playoff spot.
The Sharks best players have been their best players lately, while their depth scoring has come alive. Like the Oilers, San Jose had a lackluster start but unlike the team that knocked them out last spring, San Jose has been able to bounce back and string together a few wins. They very much look back on track here.
The Rest Of The Bunch:
– Boy, the LA Kings are an impressive bunch. Even without Jeff Carter, this team keeps rolling on and now sits at 10-2-2. It’ll be interesting to see if the Kings add some scoring between now and the deadline, because they could be a real threat to win it all if the offense keeps it up. LA is firmly in a playoff spot and you have to think that John Stevens is an early candidate to win the Jack Adams Award.
The biggest reason for LA’s rebound year? The reemergence of Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick as star players at their positions. Like I said last week, ‘offensive coordinator’ Pierre Turgeon has played a big role in this turnaround too.
– Arizona snatched up its second win of the season on Saturday night, topping Carolina by a final score of 2-1. The Coyotes are playing better hockey as of late, but they still are making far too many mistakes and simply aren’t getting enough saves from their netminders. The biggest positive? Shane Doan’s replacement in the ‘franchise face’ category has become apparent.
Clayton Keller has the makings of an absolute superstar in the NHL, and he’s done nothing but impress in his rookie season. American hockey fans should take note, because Keller is going to be a big part of the future of USA Hockey.
– The Golden Knights finally had their first losing streak, dropping the first three games of their current road trip, but the Knights bounced back nicely on Saturday, topping Ottawa by a final of 5-4. The Knights are in Toronto tonight, their first trip to one of hockey’s biggest markets.
Interesting how Vegas has handled a tough situation in net. With Oscar Dansk hurt, the Knights are on to fourth string goaltender Maxime Lagace, how has done the best in a tough spot. Remarkable how the Knights have handled a truly unique situation with the goaltending injuries.
– Impressive win for Vancouver on Saturday, as they knocked off Pittsburgh 4-2. The Canucks are still hanging around and a big reason for that is the play of rookie Brock Boeser. The Sedin era is fast approaching its end, but Boeser should make the reality a little easier to handle. He’s the most dynamic young Canuck forward since the Swedish twins entered the league.
– Calgary had a nice win of their own last night, coming from behind on a few occasions to beat New Jersey 5-4 in the shootout. The Flames are a tough team to get a read on, because when they are on they are one of the best team’s in the NHL. Secondary scoring has really hurt them to this point and there have been too many slow starts for Calgary thus far.
Although they beat the Devils and earlier in the week the Penguins, slow starts almost cost them those games. Calgary has to be better at playing a full sixty.