Welcome to another installment of Around the Pacific. We have plenty to talk about around the division this time out. That includes slumps, streaks, young guns, and long journeys. So let’s jump right to it!
Bo Horvat’s Coming of Age
Regardless of whether or not the Vancouver Canucks make the playoffs this year, there is one thing Canucks fans can be very happy about this season: Bo Horvat.
The 19-year old started the season playing as you would expect. He was inconsistent, was getting very limited ice time, and was struggling to adjust to the rigors of NHL hockey. However, the month of February has been incredible for the former first-round selection.
Since the start of play on January 30 he has points in 10 of 14 games and has seen his ice time and possession numbers skyrocket.
(Graphs provided by War on Ice)
10-game rolling corsi for average
10-game rolling ice-time average
The London, Ontario native now has 18 points in 46 games and is actually putting together a very stellar rookie season. With as much pressure that has been put on the 9th overall pick from 2013 to be the next wave of leadership for Vancouver, this is very promising. He is riding a red hot second half into more ice time, more points, and more buzz form the Vancouver faithful. Just reward for his play as of late.
The Long Journey of Mark Arcobello
Five months, four teams, four time zones, 56 games, and 19 points.
The diminutive Mark Arcobello is going to look back on this season and wonder how he ever got through it without losing his mind or his confidence. After all is said and done, after all the air time logged, he has had a very respectable year given the circumstances. Not many players can say they accrued points for four different teams in one season. In fact, Arcobello is one of only two players that can say he completed such a feat.
He stands alone with Dennis O’Brien and Dave McLlwain as being the only players to play for four different teams over the course of one NHL season. In 1977-78, Defenseman Dennis O’Brien played briefly (and scored for) the Minnesota North Stars, the Colorado Rockies, and the Cleveland Barons before finally landing in Boston to finish out his year. In the 1991-92 season, David McLlwain donned the sweaters of the Winnipeg Jets, the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. McLlwain failed to register a point in his five games with the Sabres.
The 26-year old Yale grad has been quite good in his most recent home of Arizona, after having played for Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Edmonton this season. It is a small sample size obviously, but Arcobello has been the best possession player for Arizona since he has arrived. He also has five goals in his seven games as a Coyote. Not bad for a guy passed around like cards at a poker game.
Who knows where Arcobello will land in the future, but hopefully there is at least a little stability in his immediate future. You also have to hope that he is single, and perhaps planning a trip to Hawaii this offseason with all those frequent flyer miles…
Anaheim Against the Top Teams
The Ducks have been one of the best regular season teams in the NHL in recent years. There is no questioning that. However, when it has come to the post-season they have struggled. Some hockey pundits have questioned whether or not the Ducks have a game capable of handling the top possession teams in the league. In their last three post-season appearances the Ducks have been eliminated at the hands of the Kings, the Red Wings, and the Nashville Predators. In each of those match ups, the Ducks were the lesser possession team. So how have the Ducks done against the top possession teams this season during the regular season?
They are a combined 13-3-2 with five of those victories coming in the regular season skills competition. Also, a number of these victories game in the one goal variety. The Ducks are currently 15th in the league in corsi for percentage, and lead the league in one-goal game wins at 26. Also factor in that Anaheim leads the league in shootout victories with eight, and has seven overtime victories on the season.
The more bullish fans would say that the Ducks have found ways to win games and get points, which is very much true. However, at the same time the more bearish view of it is that the Ducks may not be as good as their record indicates. Those one-goal games, shootout victories, and overtime wins are games that could easily have had a script flip so to speak. They have been scuffling as of late, going 4-5-1 in their last 10 after a very strong January.
As far as not stepping up to the top teams in the league though? That seems to be unfounded. They have come up with a lot of victories against the best possession teams in the league this year. Granted, it is the regular season.
Blood in the Water
The Sharks are falling and falling fast. At 3-6-1 in their last 10 they have now been edged out of the wild card race for the time being. With Los Angeles and Minnesota streaking and Vancouver and Calgary holding serve, the Sharks need to do something to get back in it.
Part of the problem in the Bay Area has been the goaltending and defense. Niemi and crew have allowed 39 goals in 11 February games. That is good enough for a solid 3.54 goals against average. It isn’t all on the Sharks mercurial net minder though. He has been peppered with shots. In our last installment of Around the Pacific we talked about the potential for San Jose’s defense being in upheaval with injuries and inconsistency. Without surprise, the Sharks are allowing an average of 32.9 shots a night in February games.
Niemi has been much the worse for the wear as well. His save percentage over that time has been .909 in all-situations and .920 at even strength. That being said, those numbers evens are equal to his division counterparts over the last stretch.
What isn’t equal though is the shots against. Currently a32.9 average is a few ticks shy of the worst in the division, as well as the worst in the league overall (Neuvirth 35.2, Hiller 33.9). San Jose is doing their goaltending no favors right now. If they can’t shore up the defense soon it may leave them further behind the pack in a tight wild card race.
Is it finally coming together for the LA Kings? Many questioned if they would even make the playoffs this season no more than a month ago. Quite honestly it was warranted given the way they were playing.
Right now though the Kings are the hottest team in hockey. As of February 26, the Kings were riding an 8-game win streak and are right back in the pack out West. They have tightened up defensively, they have been getting excellent goaltending from Jonathan Quick, and have two of the hottest players on the planet right now in Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli.
Over the eight game stretch the Kings have scored 25 goals. The line of Toffoli, Carter, and big Dwight King, have scored just over half of those with a total of 13.
Also, with the recent acquisition of Andrej Sekera, it is only going to help stabilize what has been a rather thin blue line in Los Angeles.
With everything going right for the team it has many people wondering if the real Los Angeles Kings have finally stepped forward. Timing seems to be everything with this team.