NHL Betting Preview: The Anaheim Ducks returned to the top of the Western Conference standings a year ago with 54 wins and 116 points, which was enough to hold position in the Pacific Division ahead of the San Jose Sharks and the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. The rest of the division really took a hit as the Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks each took major steps back while the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers once again finished 1-2 at the bottom of the conference standings. Will the Ducks be consistent enough to win the Pacific again in 2014-15? Or will the Sharks and Kings beat them for top spot? The rest of the division hasn’t improved enough and that leaves Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles to battle for Pacific supremacy.
Team That Could Surprise
The Sharks’ postseason disappointments have been well documented over the years but their consistency has been excellent and their playoff woes could lead to them being somewhat underestimated heading in to this season. Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Tomas Hertl lead an impressive forward core and the team allowed veteran defenseman Dan Boyle to leave town after being impressed with what they saw from a pair of rising stars in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers. The Sharks have the potential to score goals in bunches and Alex Stalock is poised to challenge Antti Niemi for the No. 1 job in goal after the latter didn’t perform at an elite level a year ago. The Ducks could repeat and the Kings are the defending Cup champions but it’s San Jose that could surprise and win the Pacific in 2014-15.
Team That Could Disappoint
There has been a lot of talk about the Canucks bouncing back in 2014-15 but they could end up disappointing instead. The Sedin brothers aren’t nearly as dominant as they once were and the talent around them has thinned with Ryan Kesler departing in the offseason and Alex Burrows’ play falling off. Vancouver added Radim Vrbata and Nick Bonino up front but that forward core isn’t good enough to compete with the best in the division. The hope in Vancouver is that the addition of goalie Ryan Miller behind a strong defensive core that features Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, and Kevin Bieksa can help make up for the lack of scoring but Miller struggled in St. Louis a year ago and the defense core has been plagued by injuries over the past couple of seasons. Many observers have the Canucks taking a major step forward and that could lead to more disappointment in 2014-15.
Who’s Most Likely To Win The Pacific Division
Consistency is the key to winning the division and while some feel fatigue from last year’s Cup run will carry over to this season the reality is that this Kings’ team is talented enough to make up for it. Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones could be the league’s best goal-tending tandem and a defense core led by Drew Doughty also features a pair of rising stars in Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin. Marian Gaborik helped solidify a forward core that needed more scoring power and with the top-six returning intact this group has the potential to be excellent again at both ends of the ice. How much last year’s Cup run wears on this group will be an interesting storyline to follow but the Kings are loaded in every area and deserve to be the favorites to win the Pacific in 2014-15.
Will the San Jose Sharks choke in the 2014-15 playoffs again?