Over the past couple of seasons, the Pacific Division has had the reputation of being one of the most wide-open divisions in the NHL. Teams coming in and out of the division, strange COVID alignments, and two new expansion teams joining the West have all affected this narrative.
We are now over halfway through the regular season, and the leading Pacific Division team sits eighth in the NHL, and it's not the Vegas Golden Knights. The Seattle Kraken have leapfrogged the VGK for the top spot in the division. With the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames not far behind, let's take a look at where the Golden Knights stand in the standings as they hope not to miss the playoffs for the second-straight season.
Vegas Golden Knights- 61 pts (P2)
Let's start with a quick overview of the VGK. The team is 1-4-1 in their last six games, all of which have come without captain Mark Stone. They are in the midst of their New York trip, playing both the Rangers and Islanders before packing it up for the All-Star Break.
The Golden Knights have arguably hit their biggest dip of the season without guys like Stone, Shea Theodore, and Zach Whitecloud in the lineup. They are having trouble digging themselves out of the current hole they are in. Meanwhile, other teams in the division are taking advantage.
Seattle Kraken- 61 pts (P1)
The Kraken are continuing their strong season, and given that we are this far into the season, it is safe to call them playoff contenders in year two. They currently lead the Pacific Division with 61 points because they have a better points percentage (.649%) than the Golden Knights.
The young franchise is coming off a historic seven-game winning road trip, becoming the first team in NHL history to do so. They are getting contributions from everywhere, as they have 14 players with 20 or more points, and are looking a lot like the Golden Misfits of 2017-18.
They also have two games at hand on the VGK if things come down to the wire toward the end of the season.
Golden Knight v Kraken So Far: 10/15 5-2 VGK, 11/25 4-2 SEA
Remaining Head-to-Head Schedule: 4/11 @VGK 7:00 p.m., 4/13 7:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Kings- 60 pts (P3)
The Kings are looking to enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second-straight year after they were the surprise Pacific Division team of 2022. They have been struggling as of late, going 2-3 in their last five games, and also played one more game than the VGK, reaching 50 games on the season.
For the Kings, offseason addition Kevin Fiala has been remarkable with 51 points in 50 games, and guys like Anze Kopitar, Philip Danault, and Viktor Arvidsson are having strong seasons once more. Twice have the Kings beaten the VGK this season with their strong neutral zone play.
Goaltending continues to be an issue for the Kings as both Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen have underperformed. Pheonix Copley has assumed the no. role in the goal, playing in 18 games and posting a .897 save percentage. Like the VGK, this team has weaknesses, and they are coming into the light even more.
Golden Knights v Kings So Far: 10/11 4-3 VGK, 12/27 4-2 LAK, 1/7 5-1 LAK
Remaining Head-to-Head Schedule: 4/6 @VGK 7:00 p.m.
Edmonton Oilers- 58 pts (WC1)
Here's where things get interesting. Just like last season, the Oilers are starting to heat up in the second half of the season, having most recently gone on a six-game winning streak. They are now threatening for a top-three spot in the Pacific Division and could steal it from practically any top-three team.
The storyline remains the same for the Oilers, as their top-notch offense, led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, leads the way in an effort to cover up all of the other mechanical issues this team has. Depth scoring, defense, and goaltending continue to be question marks.
Still, the Oilers are coming and could take the Golden Knight's spot in the division if they don't keep their foot on the gas pedal.
Golden Knights v Oilers So Far: 11/19 4-3 EDM (OT), 1/14 4-3 EDM
Remaining Head-to-Head Schedule: 3/25 @EDM 7:00 p.m., 3/28 @VGK 7:00 p.m.
Calgary Flames- 55 pts (WC2)
Lastly, the Calgary Flames are a few steps back, but still have plenty of time to challenge for a top-three spot in the Pacific Division standings. Jonathan Huberdeau has not quite lived up to expectations, with just 32 points in 45 games played. Jakob Markstrom has struggled as well, with a .895 save percentage. The team is also missing both Olivier Kylington and Chris Tanev to injuries.
But as a team that made the postseason last year, and as a team coming off a wacky offseason, watch out for the Flames too.
Golden Knights v Flames So Far: 10/18, 3-2 L
Remaining Head-to-Head Schedule: 2/23 @VGK 7:00 p.m., 3/16 @VGK 7:00 p.m., 3/23 @CGY 6:00 p.m.
The Vancouver Canucks (41 pts), Anaheim Ducks (38 pts), and San Jose Sharks (33 pts) round out the Pacific Division Standings. But based on their current season trajectories, it doesn't look like they will challenge for a spot this season.
In the Central, the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars are atop the division, leaving the third spot up for grabs along with the Wild Card spots. The Colorado Avalanche (55 pts), Minnesota Wild (54 pts), Nashville Predators (52 pts), and St. Louis Blues (49 pts) could all affect the Golden Knight's playoff odds if they fall out of a spot like they did last year and have to fight for a remaining Wild Card slot.