It’s been a long two weeks since we last looked at the happenings in the Pacific Division, and things remain a tight, unpredictable, and back and forth battle. The Dallas Stars have posted a 3-3 record in the past two weeks, and given the slew of injuries they’ve faced, it should be considered a respectable feat, especially since they’re holding onto first place in the division. Andrew Raycroft was solid in his first two starts, but shaky in the wild 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders. The third line, or the REV line, as Bob Sturm has coined them, have been the core of the Stars with the top lines not performing and captain Brenden Morrow out with an injury. Eric Nystrom has now tied Loui Eriksson for the team lead in goals with 10. Pretty good for a guy who’s never scored more than 11 in a single NHL season. The Stars are fortunate to have a few days off now, and look forward to hopefully getting Morrow, Trevor Daley, and Alex Goligoski back sometime during the upcoming five game road trip that begins with match up versus the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, December 8th. Now, let’s see what’s been going on elsewhere…
Phoenix Coyotes: (14-9-3, 31 points)
Who said Mike Smith was perfect? I might have implied it, but that’s beside the point. The ‘Yotes have a dropped a couple game in a row, and have also posted a 3-3 record since our last check-up. Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata continue to lead the team in scoring in completely normal and unspectacular fashion. Dave Tippet is probably one of the best coaches in the NHL to be able to keep a team like the Coyotes a consistent playoff team without any real superstars present. We’re so used to seeing the team do moderately successful that we don’t even realize how Tippet is the only thing holding the team together. I shimmer to think of what this team would be without a great coach like Tippet. Phoenix has a busy week ahead of them, playing four games over the course of the next six days. First up was the Chicago Blackhawks , and the Coyotes beat one of the Western Conference favorites on national television tonight on Versus in the shootout after the Blackhawks fought back from an early deficit.
Los Angeles Kings: (13-9-4, 30 points)
The Stars are on top of the division, but only barely, and probably only because the Kings have also gone 3-3 over the past two weeks. The only difference is that this team is not plagued by injured. Los Angeles is still showing signs of struggle, especially offensively. They have not scored more than three goals since November 17th, and players like Dustin Penner (1 goal, 3 points) need to step up. Jonathan Quick still sports an impressive 1.97 GAA and .936 SV%, but his record has fallen to 11-6-4, mostly due to the inability for the Kings to score. Still, the team is managing to pull out wins, keeping them afloat in the Pacific. The Kings face the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, December 6th.
San Jose Sharks: (14-8-1, 29 points)
The Sharks were on a tear through the latter half of November, but have since posted a 2-4 record over the last couple weeks, dropping three of their last four. A little slump isn’t enough to slow things down in San Jose though. The team has the best goal differential in the Pacific with +11, but the players who had hot sticks at the beginning of the season, namely Joe Pavelski, have tailed off in production. Fortunately for the Sharks, that guy Joe Thornton is pretty good, taking over the leading scorer spot with 5 goals and 21 points. Also of note, Martin Havlat, the player they traded Dany Heatley for, has just one goal so far. One measly goal. Meanwhile, Heatley has posted 8 goals and 17 points, and the Minnesota Wild are sitting on top of the NHL. As of right now, it looks the Wild won that trade. San Jose will meet with that same Minnesota Wild team tomorrow night. I think the Sharks would like to bounce back against the top team in the NHL, don’t you?
Anaheim Ducks: (7-14-5, 19 points)
Well, well, well. Goodbye Randy Carlyle, hello…Bruce Boudreau? Yes, just days removed from being fired as head coach of the Washington Capitals, the Ducks canned Carlyle and picked up Boudreau. It was a shocking move, but arguably less extreme than trading away a franchise player like Bobby Ryan, which seemed like a real possibility at certain points. Unfortunately, Anaheim is still in for a rocky road. Boudreau is 0-1-1 in the two games he’s coached so far, and the team has given up leads in both. With just one win in their last ten games, there is no doubting that the problems went beyond coaching, and it’s going to be a tall order for Boudreau to turn this team around. But with all stars and superstars at every corner, there is no reason a prolific coach like Boudreau should not succeed.
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Topics: Alex Goligoski, Anaheim Ducks, Andrew Raycroft, Bobby Ryan, Brenden Morrow, Bruce Boudreau, Dallas Stars, Dany Heatley, Dustin Penner, Eric Nystrom, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Loui Eriksson, Martin Havlat, Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes, Radim Vrbata, Randy Carlyle, San Jose Sharks