The Dallas Stars picked up their 10th win of the season yesterday afternoon in a dominating 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, and in doing so remained firmly on top of the Pacific Division, but how is everyone below us doing? Let’s take a look around the division.
Phoenix Coyotes: (7-4-2, 16 points)
The Coyotes are off to a solid start to the season, being led on offense by Ray Whitney (6 goals, 14 points) and Radim Vrbata (5 goals, 12 points), but the biggest story out of Phoenix is the goaltending of Mike Smith. After losing Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers, the entire division sighed with relief, the less you see Bryzgalov the better. Goaltending has always been Phoenix’s biggest asset with their defensive style of play under Dave Tippet, and that system will not be successful without a solid goaltender. Mike Smith, who spent last season as a back up to Dwayne Roloson in Tampa Bay, was picked up by the Coyotes during the offseason. No one labeled him a replacement for Bryzgalov, but 13 games into the season Mike Smith has been more than the ‘Yotes could have hoped for. He’s earned a 6-2-2 record with a .926 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average. Not bad at all for a former back up and journeyman, who is providing the best-case scenario for Dave Tippet. The Coyotes are a team to keep an eye on this season. They’re not a flashy team, and they never have been, but they keep finding ways to win. Phoenix’s next game is Thursday, November 10th, versus the Montreal Canadiens.
San Jose Sharks: (7-4-1, 15 points)
San Jose made a couple big moves in the offseason, trading both Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to the Minnesota Wild for Brent Burns and Martin Havlat in two separate trades just 10 days apart. It’s too early in the season to find out which team came out on the winning side of that trade, but San Jose is still looking like the perpetual contenders they have been for the last few years. Joe Pavelski (9 goals, 15 points) has been dynamite for the Sharks, and Joe Thornton (3 goals, 11 points) is about as consistent as a player can be. The 5-game winning streak they had at the end of October was impressive, and everyone knows this team will not be satisfied unless they make it to the Stanley Cup Finals after losing in the Western Conference Finals for two straight years. San Jose is in action TONIGHT against the Los Angeles Kings, and speaking of the Kings…
Los Angeles Kings: (6-4-3, 15 points)
If San Jose made “big” moves in the offseason, then Los Angeles made mammoth moves. This team wants a Stanley Cup and proved it with a huge trade for Mike Richards and then signing Simon Gagne. When you add those two players to a core that consists of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, it is easy to see why this team has such high expectations. Quick garnered attention early in the season when he posted three straight shutouts, and his performance has been spectacular, but the Kings have a hit a bump recently, dropping their last four games, but there is no question that the team will get its act together and start winning games, it’s inevitable. With a dynamic offense, the $56 million dollar man known as Drew Doughty, and one of the best goaltenders in the league, Los Angeles has crafted a team that has potential to go deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As mentioned earlier the Kings will be in action TONIGHT against San Jose.
Anaheim Ducks: (5-6-3, 13 points)
What’s wrong with the Ducks? The team made virtually no moves over the offseason, and looks like the same team that went to the playoffs last year. Anaheim has dropped 5 straight games, and they are not looking very good together. The superstar line of Bobby Ryan (5 goals, 6 points), Corey Perry (5 goals, 9 points), and Ryan Getzlaf (4 goals, 8 points) has been decent, but they need to be better if this team is going to be successful. The ageless Teemu Selanne (5 goals, 14 points), who provided the only bit of drama during the offseason after toying with retirement, again, is the team’s leading scorer. They have starting goalie Jonas Hiller back after he missed the end of last season, including the playoffs, with vertigo issues. So why aren’t they winning? There isn’t a clear answer. On paper they should be a winning team. It’s up to the players to right the ship and get the Ducks back on track, it’s early in the season, so they have plenty of time. Anaheim plays the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, November 9th.
The Dallas Stars are sitting pretty on top of the Western Conference and the Pacific Division, and if they keep playing the way they have been, there is no reason they should not remain on top for the foreseeable future. The parity in the Pacific is absurd, last year the Stars were one game away from making the playoffs and doing so would have put every team in the division in the playoffs. When you play with this many talented teams, the points are going to be hard earned and every single one is going to be valuable. It’s going to be another year full of nail-biters, crushing losses, and miraculous victories. But that’s just hockey, and I cannot wait.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks Anze Kopitar Carolina Hurricanes Dallas Stars Dave Tippet Drew Doughty Ilya Bryzgalov Joe Thornton Jonas Hiller Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings Pacific Division Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney San Jose Sharks Teemu Selanne