The Pacific Division has not gone as predicted this year. This year, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were supposed to be the class of the division, and some even expected the Seattle Kraken to remain pedestrian and the Vegas Golden Knights to take a step back and struggle. To date, the results have been anything but expected. The Pacific was also supposed to be the weakest division of the four in the NHL, but yet it is the only division with half the division over 80 points as of Tuesday morning. Here’s how the standings look up to March 13, inclusive:
The division is relatively tight among the competitive team. Just eight points separate first and fourth, before a drop off down to Calgary, then another drop off to the bottom with the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks. Every game and every point is vital as the teams head down the stretch, particularly for the Oilers.
The Oilers are currently in an uphill battle to secure home ice advantage in the first round. They do have the benefit of controlling their own fate, playing the teams above them five times combined. If they play well and deploy their players and goalies effectively, there is a huge opportunity for them to jump up the standings.
Goaltending in the Pacific
The Oilers aren’t the only team that has had goaltending troubles this year. Jack Campbell’s struggles have been well documented, but he probably isn’t even the worst goalie in the division this year, as multiple teams have suffered from underwhelming performances. It can be tough to parse out the true impact of a goalie on a team’s results, as great performances can go lost because the rest of the team didn’t show up or a skater group can simply outscore a team’s off night.
Using a new goaltending model, the impacts of goaltending on the standings can be quantified for each team to determine how the standings would look like based on each skater group. Be sure to read up on the model to dive deeper into the numbers.
|Stat||John Gibson||Anthony Stolarz||Lukas Dostal|
|Added to Win||4||2||1|
|Took Away From Win||0||2||2|
|Added to Loss||16||6||4|
|Standings Points Impact||18||-4||2|
The Anaheim Ducks have been a successful unmitigated disaster this year. Their younger players have been productive in important roles while the rest of the stripped roster has failed to make up the rest of a competent NHL roster. The season will be successful for Pat Verbeek’s squad with a hopeful lottery victory come April, but for now, it has but their team in disarray.
All things considered, their goaltending has held up relatively well. All three of their goalies have been better than more than half of simulations of their workload against expected outcomes. Of note is John Gibson, who has been hotly debated in the analytics community over recent years. He still possesses the reputation of the elite goalie he once was, but overall stats have not backed that up in recent years.
However, this season shows that when he’s on, he’s still one of the league’s best, stealing wins in 10 of his 24 games with a positive Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). The inverse is also true, being extremely bad in games where he’s not feeling it. Ultimately it shows signs of a player that shows up when he thinks he has a chance to win.
|Stat||Jacob Markstrom||Dan Vladar|
|Added to Win||8||8|
|Took Away From Win||8||3|
|Added to Loss||7||3|
|Standings Points Impact||-5||1|
The Flames have had an extremely disappointing season. To compensate for the departures of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, general manager Brad Treliving added MacKenzie Weegar, Nazem Kadri, and Jonathan Huberdeau. Darryl Sutter’s team was set to possibly improve on their previous first place finish last year, compensating for the lost offence with an even more stringent defensive scheme in front of their reigning Vezina finalist.
Needless to say, this season has been anything but successful for the Flames. Markstrom has struggled heavily for large parts of the season, resulting in eight lost games already this season. When the team trails their Albertan counterparts by seven points and the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff spot by six, the five points Markstrom has individually lost loom large.
There is a bright side for Flames fans. Since the birth of his child, Markstrom has been playing substantially better. When I ran these numbers privately on February 26, his standings points impact was -11, meaning the Swede has done everything he can to keep the team in the playoff race. With Sutter reportedly telling the veteran goaltender that he will be getting the bulk of the starts down the stretch, there is reason for optimism.
|Stat||Jack Campbell||Stuart Skinner|
|Added to Win||8||8|
|Took Away From Win||8||5|
|Added to Loss||5||5|
|Standings Points Impact||-9||8|
There’s been a lot written about the Oilers goaltending situation so far this year. Skinner has been the better goalie of the two, and should see the bulk of the work down the stretch and into the playoffs. That hasn’t always showed up in terms of record, as Campbell has received much more goal support than his counterpart.
The Oilers are still in an okay spot due to the shear number of divisional games remaining against playoff teams along with almost every game outside of that group coming against bottom five teams, but imagine where they’d be without the eight points that Skinner has contributed or if they had the nine points Campbell has taken away.
Los Angeles Kings
|Stat||Cal Petersen||Pheonix Copley||Joonas Korpisalo||Jonathan Quick|
|Added to Win||2||12||2||4|
|Took Away From Win||2||4||0||5|
|Added to Loss||2||3||0||7|
|Standings Points Impact||-2||7||0||-9|
The Los Angeles Kings are one of the few teams that I can remember that has completed turned over their crease midseason. As it turns out, they had good reason to do so. Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick were performing in the 1st and 2nd percentile respectively during their time with Los Angeles, taking away a combined 11 points from their total. It was an extremely tough look to ship out a franchise legend the way they did with Quick at the deadline, but it should lead to some better puck stopping results.
The Kings sport one of the most forgiving defensive environments in the league. They didn’t need a goalie to come in and steal games. They just needed consistency and someone that wouldn’t lose them games. Pheonix Copley has been that for them this season, while splashing in to steal some extra points as well. Combined that with the fact that Joonas Korpisalo has been one of the league’s best goalies since December 1 (as well as being in his first season since returning from hip surgery), and the Kings are set up extremely well down the stretch drive.
San Jose Sharks
|Stat||James Reimer||Kaapo Kahkonen||Eetu Makiniemi||Aaron Dell|
|Added to Win||4||4||1||0|
|Took Away From Win||3||2||0||0|
|Added to Loss||12||9||0||1|
|Standings Points Impact||8||-6||-1||0|
The San Jose Sharks have been a team stuck in the middle this season. They’ve had elite years from Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier (before he was sent to New Jersey), but a lengthy list of bloated salaries for underperforming and aging players has resulted in a mediocre roster that just can’t compete.
Their goaltending situation reflects much of the same. After trading Adin Hill in the offseason, James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen have been under siege behind a porous defence. In a similar fashion to Gibson in Anaheim, Reimer has been able to put together some strong performances when the game is swinging his way to steal points, but injuries and environment have limited that consitency.
|Stat||Phillip Grubauer||Martin Jones||Joey Daccord|
|Added to Win||9||11||0|
|Took Away From Win||3||6||1|
|Added to Loss||5||6||0|
|Standings Points Impact||-4||-5||0|
Phillip Grubauer was arguably the worst goalie in the league last year, which was a complete 180 when compared to his Vezina nomination the year before. His second year in Seattle has been much better, with Grubauer posting a 73rd percentile performance against expected so far this season.
However, the inconsistency and soft goals have continued to be a theme for Grubauer through this year. As Edmonton fans know after living through the Mike Smith/Mikko Koskinen tandem era, an untimely weak goal can sink a team on a given night, completely turning the momentum of a game on its head. This is why the Seattle front office has relied on Martin Jones through large parts of the year. While Jones’ performance ranks lower than Grubauer’s overall, the former has minimized those soft goals and been consistently right around expected, which has been enough for Seattle to win on most nights.
Ultimately their goaltending still comes out to a net negative, which should be a concern for the Kraken heading into the playoffs.
|Stat||Thatcher Demko||Spencer Martin||Arturs Silovs||Collin Delia|
|Added to Win||3||5||2||1|
|Took Away From Win||3||6||0||3|
|Added to Loss||9||9||0||3|
|Standings Points Impact||0||-5||0||2|
Thatcher Demko was an elite goalie last season, and looked to be entering the upper echelon of goaltenders across the NHL. This season however has not gone as planned. Demko struggled out of the gate, reportedly dealing with an injury before ultimately spending months on injured reserve. Since he has return from injury, he looks to be back to form, a great sign for Canucks fans and/or a team looking to acquire the netminder in the offseason.
The options that the Canucks had behind Demko were not ready to shoulder the burden of being an NHL starter. Spencer Martin was an early season success story, but as his workload increased and the amount of scouting reports grew, his play started to decline. Collin Delia posted extremely mixed results, but still netted out to a substandard goalie. Arturs Silovs is currently the organization’s best goaltending prospect, and was able to show well in limited usage, but was never given an extended look in the majors.
Vegas Golden Knights
|Stat||Logan Thompson||Adin Hill||Jonathan Quick||Laurent Brossoit||Jiri Patera|
|Added to Win||9||7||0||1||0|
|Took Away From Win||7||5||1||0||1|
|Added to Loss||8||3||0||0||0|
|Standings Points Impact||1||4||4||2||0|
It has been a story of next man up in the Golden Knights’ crease this season. Despite defacto starter Robin Lehner being gone for the season, general manager Kelly McCrimmon was able to find two suitable options to carry the main in the Vegas crease for pennies compared to most other teams in the league. Logan Thompson and Adin Hill have done extremely well this season considering the circumstances.
The one downfall of the pair is that like Lehner, they have not been able to stay healthy. Laurent Brossoit returned from the AHL when Thompson first went down and was playing some of best hockey of his career, coming off a double hip surgery that allowed him to move more freely in the crease. Brossoit then suffered an injury, making things look even more dire. Adin Hill was banged up at this point, so Vegas acquired Jonathan Quick from Columbus as he was one of the only available options. As shown above, Quick struggled mightily with the Kings, but a healthy goalie with NHL experience was likely the Golden Knights’ best option. With Thompson, Hill, and Brossoit all currently sidelined, the Vegas crease is currently composed of Quick, who they are hoping can turn back the clock in a spite filled stretch run, and Jiri Patera, who won his first NHL game on Sunday.
Goaltending adjusted standings
Each team has had goaltending effect theirs records in different ways. Some have benefited, others have lost seasons, but the model seeks to find that impact on a game to game basis.
Seattle ultimately bumps up to first due to their underperforming goalies, while Vegas falls back due to every single one of their options having strong season so far. Edmonton, L.A., and Calgary all sit around where they previously were, although the Kings could be set to improve on that mark with their new tandem in place. With all that considered, here’s the goaltending adjusted standings in the Pacific Division.
|Team||Original Points||Goalie Impact||Adjusted Points|
As seen, goalie performances can really tilt the tide of a season for any team. With just a handful of games remaining, the playoff watch for those still in the race is getting tighter than ever. There’s no room left for error.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire