Let’s take a look around the Pacific Division. Self-proclaimed contender loses 8-1. California’s brightest was outpowered by Colorado and the Western Conference’s surprise team is 0-2-0 with one goal in 60 minutes. Like years past, the Golden Knights will greatly benefit from their light divisional schedule. Five out of the eight Pacific teams are considered out or borderline playoff rosters.
NHL Power Rankings – Pacific Division Teams
- Edmonton Oilers (2nd)
- Vegas Golden Knights (5th)
- Los Angeles Kings (11th)
- Seattle Kraken (16th)
- Vancouver Canucks (18th)
- Calgary Flames (21st)
- Anaheim Ducks (27th)
- San Jose Sharks (32nd)
After their 4-1 opening night victory against the Seattle Kraken, the reigning champions walked into their locker room where they undressed, gave their postgame interviews, and moved on. It was business as usual for the Golden Knights, even after an emotional, jubilant celebration. At the end of the day, Bruce Cassidy complimented his guys for playing a full 60 minutes and the focus turned to San Jose. In an unsurprising fashion, Vegas handled their duties and left Northern California with two more points.
It won’t be that easy for other clubs in the division. The Golden Knights play with an identity, a championship identity, while the other seven are trying to find theirs. Take the Kraken for example. On Tuesday, Seattle left the ice and patted themselves on the back for their effort in a losing cause. Coach Dave Hakstol fluffed off the result and bizarrely tossed it aside because it was opening night.
Transition, execution in and around the net, getting to a couple of more rebounds. It’s early, it’s game one. There will be a number of things I’m sure we’ll want to look at and improve. That’s typical at this time of year. -Dave Hakstol, SEA coach
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Kraken players spoke about the frustration of being eliminated in Game 7 of the second-round playoffs to the Dallas Stars. However, against the Stanley Cup champions, the 32nd franchise looked like they took two steps back into expansion. Without confirming it, the Kraken hinted that Tuesday’s three-goal loss was a “mental victory.” It’s difficult to believe that mindset after showing little heart when teammate Brandon Tanev was sent to the locker room after a clear headshot from Vegas’ Brett Howden. Not one Kraken player made an effort to challenge Howden or retaliate to a dangerous check on a popular player. Some said the 2023 Stanley Cup champions overacted when a LA Kings player leveled Mark Stone in the preseason. That’s showing team identity not finding positives in a lopsided defeat.
Just a half-second late is kind of what it felt like. First game of the year so you try to learn from it and move forward. We’re a fast team and you have got to make them hit you. Make them skate. We did a good job of holding the puck in their zone. -Jared McCann, SEA forward
After two games, Seattle’s identity is uncertain. They can’t score, they’re faint-hearted, not terribly difficult to play against, and lack high-end skill. The Kraken are limited in their own zone, have mediocre goaltending, and aren’t well-coached. Yet, the Golden Knights defeated a relatively content divisional team. It’s early, they say.
In only a handful of games completed this season, the Pacific Division looks extremely shaky. For the Golden Knights to capture another division title they’ll need to simply play to their identity. Balanced, defensive, intelligent, and structured will be enough to succeed in this division. The Golden Knights’ style of handling their side of the puck proved to be too much for most teams, never mind shallow Pacific Division rosters.