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.
But by decree of playoff formatting, at least three teams from the division will make the postseason. Now in the stretch run of the season leading up to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let's take a look at where the Vegas Golden Knights and other teams are at to get a better playoff picture.
Vegas Golden Knights- 84 points (P1)
Let's start with the Golden Knights themselves. After they stumbled into All-Star Weekend, the Golden Knights have collected points in 14 out of 17 games since the break. Jack Eichel is back producing at a high level, and the team's defense is fully-healthy.
Cause for concern starts in goal, as the Golden Knights are currently down to what could be considered their fourth-string goaltender, Jonathan Quick, a guy they traded for just a week ago. Goaltending will play a critical factor for the Golden Knights in the stretch run and where they finish in the standings.
Remaining Opponents: CAR, STL, PHI, CGY, CBJ, VAN, CGY, EDM, EDM, SJS, MIN, MIN, NSH, LAK, DAL, SEA, SEA
Los Angeles Kings- 84 points (P2)
Even though it seems as if the Golden Knights are getting their act together, they still haven't found any separation from the rest of the division. This applies in a literal sense with the LA Kings, who are only behind the Golden Knights because of points percentage (VGK .646, LAK .636).
The Kings infamously traded now Golden Knight Jonathan Quick to the Columbus Blue Jackets to strengthen their D-corps with Vladislav Gavrikov and adjust their goaltending situation, which now is a tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Pheonix Copley.
They have won five straight games and have no major injuries.
Remaining Opponents: NSH, NYI, CBJ, VAN, CGY, WPG, STL, CGY, EDM, SEA, VAN, EDM, VGK, COL, VAN, ANA
Golden Knights v Kings This Season: 10/11 4-3 VGK, 12/27 4-2 LAK, 1/7 5-1 LAK, 4/6 @VGK 7:00 p.m.
Seattle Kraken- 80 points (P3)
The Kraken continue to be a surprise and can safely be considered a playoff team as they just keep winning. They most recently had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Ottawa Senators. But they continue to score by committee and win as a team.
Key pieces Andre Burakovsky, Chris Driedger, and Joonas Donskoi are currently injured for the team. At the deadline, they stood pat, only acquiring Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks.
It's hard to get a read on how good the Kraken will be in the playoffs. But just knowing that they will be in the playoffs is a thing we can take away from this team now. They are in a steady progression to get better and better as they inch further away from being the new kids on the block.
Remaining Opponents: DAL, DAL, SJS, EDM, DAL, NSH, NSH, MIN, ANA, LAK, ARZ, CHI, ARZ, VGK, VGK
Golden Knight v Kraken This Season: 10/15 5-2 VGK, 11/25 4-2 SEA, 4/11 @VGK 7:00 p.m., 4/13 7:30 p.m.
Edmonton Oilers- 80 points (WC1)
The storyline for the Edmonton Oilers remains the same. Can Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl get enough help from the rest of the lineup to not only make it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs but reach the ultimate goal? Right now, McDavid has 124 points and Draisaitl 97.
At the deadline, the Oilers made a big splash and added longtime Nashville Predator Mattias Ekholm as well as Nick Bjugstad from the Coyotes. Evander Kane is currently hurt. Like the Kings, goaltending continues to be a big question mark as both Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell continue to split games.
The Oilers seem bound for the playoffs; the only thing left is to find out if they can win enough games to challenge for a top-3 spot in the division.
Remaining Opponents: TOR, OTT, DAL, SEA, SJS, ARZ, VGK, LAK, ANA, LAK, ANA, SJS, COL, SJS
Golden Knights v Oilers So Far: 11/19 4-3 EDM (OT), 1/14 4-3 EDM, 3/25 @EDM 7:00 p.m., 3/28 @VGK 7:00 p.m.
Calgary Flames- 71 points (Out 1)
The Calgary Flames seem a bit of a way out of making it into the playoff picture. But we still have plenty of time left on the season, and compared to other teams lower in the standings, they are relevant enough to warrant still being in the playoff conversation.
It's been an overall frustrating season in Calgary after they lost both Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau in the offseason. Jonathan Hubderdeau and Nazem Kadri have not quite lived up to expectations and the contracts they signed this offseason.
For the third (fourth if you count the Golden Knights) time on this list, we have another team going through goaltending troubles. Jakob Markstrom is not having the season the Flames expected out of him. Backup Dan Vladar hasn't been all that great, either.
Personally, I don't have faith that the Flames challenge for a spot, let alone do anything in the postseason if they make it. But you never know.
Remaining Opponents: ANA, OTT, ARZ, VGK, DAL, LAK, ANA, VGK, SJS, LAK, VAN, ANA, CHI, WPG, VAN, NSH, SJS
Golden Knights v Flames So Far: 10/18, 3-2 CGY, 2/23 @VGK 7:00 p.m., 3/16 @VGK 7:00 p.m., 3/23 @CGY 6:00 p.m.
The Vancouver Canucks (59 points), Anaheim Ducks (51 points), and San Jose Sharks (50 points) are safely out of the playoff race at this point in the season. However, given the way that the Wild Card system works, it's good to look at the central division real quick too.
The Dallas Stars lead the division with 83 points, followed by the Minnesota Wild with 81 and the Colorado Avalanche with 76. The Winnipeg Jets currently occupy the second Wild Card Spot in the West with 75 points and could flip-flop with the Avalanche.
If the playoffs started today the Golden Knights would play the Jets in the first round. But it is entirely possible for a first-round matchup against the Kings, Kraken, or Oilers too.