RANK: 2ND in Western Conference
MVP: Ryan Getzlaf (25 GP, 10 G, 21 A, 31P)
SURPRISE: Viktor Fasth (13 GP, 10-1-1, 1.92 GAA, .929 SV)
After finishing 13th in the Western Conference a season ago, few predicted the Anaheim Ducks would have just three regulation losses through the first 24 games on their schedule.
With 11 wins in their last 12 games, it’s tough to currently find a hotter team in the league, too. Only the Blackhawks have captured more points than Anaheim on home ice, while the Ducks have won 11 straight after dropping their home opener at Honda Center to start the season.
Ryan Getzlaf has been a big part of the Ducks’ revitalization, enjoying numbers that would translate to a career year over a full schedule. He’s received plenty of support from the likes of Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, but it’s the team’s depth as a whole – with 11 player recording at least five goals this season – that has them firing on all cylinders.
As good as the forwards have been, Viktor Fasth has been better. The 30-year-old rookie goaltender has been lights out in his brief, 12-game National Hockey League career with a 1.92 goals against average and .929 save percentage. Fasth is quickly supplanting longtime starter Jonas Hiller as the man between the pipes in Anaheim. If Fasth’s able to keep pace, the Ducks are a conference contender in the West.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
RANK: 4TH in Western Conference
MVP: Jeff Carter (25 GP, 17 G, 2 A, 19 P)
SURPRISE: Slava Voynov (25 GP, 4 G, 14 A, 18 P)
After a slow start to the season, the Los Angeles Kings have appeared to round into the form that helped them capture the Stanley Cup a year ago.
Winners of eight of their last 10 and virtually unbeatable at Staples Center, a lethargic start has been completely erased as the Kings – returning the strong majority of their team from a year ago – have finally shaken that Cup hangover.
That can especially be said for goaltender Jonathan Quick, who struggled early after offseason back surgery. Quick is rapidly returning to the play that made him the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
When Quick was struggling, he was propped up by the likes of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, who is challenging for the league lead in goals with 17. His incredible run of 13 goals in 14 games mimics the trajectory of the Kings’ sudden turnaround.
If Quick and Carter continue to shine and Los Angeles is able to stick to Darryl Sutter’s stifling system, the Kings will continue to be viewed as one of the scarier teams in the Western Conference.
RANK: 6TH in Western Conference
MVP: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (26 GP, 3 G, 14 A, 17 P)
SURPRISE: Mikkel Boedker (26 GP, 6 G, 12 A, 18 P)
Much like the Blues, the Phoenix Coyotes’ woes haven’t been in their ability to put the puck in the net but rather keep it out of their own.
Mike Smith, last year’s undisputed team MVP, hasn’t been able to come close to replicating numbers from last season that should’ve garnered him much more Vezina Trophy consideration. The 30-year-old has a 2.92 goals against average and .899 save percentage a year after posting totals of 2.21 and .930.
Fortunately, the Coyotes offense has been one of the conference’s best. Though the team doesn’t possess an elite sniper, Phoenix has built an offense-by-committee type offense that has 11 different scorers with four or more goals, yet none have more than eight.
It’s a system that’s worked for coach Dave Tippett, who will need to dedicate special attention to defense to put his team back in a playoff position.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
RANK: 9TH in Western Conference
MVP: Antii Niemi (21 GP, 10-5-5, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV)
SURPRISE: Scott Gomez (19 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 P)
One of the league’s hottest teams to start the season, the San Jose Sharks rattled off seven consecutive wins in January to kick off their campaign.
Unfortunately those wins dried up quickly with just four in their last 17 games, scoring just 27 goals over that span after opening the season with 29 over the course of their winning streak. The Sharks’ 56 goals this season tops only the Nashville Predator’s 54-goal output this season.
Starting the season on fire with nine goals in his first five games, Patrick Marleau has cooled his pace. While Joe Thornton is still producing at a point-per-game pace, the likes of Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat and Ryane Clowe – still searching for his first goal of the season – haven’t produced to near the level capable.
Though he’s getting little in the way of support, goaltender Antti Niemi is giving the Sharks a chance to win every night. With a 1.92 goals against average and .932 save percentage, Neimi is the only thing keeping the Sharks in playoff contention over the last month and a half.
RANK: 11TH in Western Conference
MVP: Kari Lehtonen (17 GP, 9-5-1, 2.35 GAA, .924 SV)
SURPRISE: Jaromir Jagr (24 GP, 10 G, 8 A, 18 P)
Finishing 10th in the Western Conference a year ago, the Dallas Stars find themselves in an identical position at the midway point of the season.
In the thick of the playoff chase once again, the Stars will need their stars to step up to keep pace in a competitive conference. The addition of Jaromir Jagr has been spectacular, as the timeless Czech leads all Dallas players in goals and points while Kari Lehtonen has been nothing short of spectacular between the pipes despite missing half of February due to injury.
With just four players who have scored more than five goals this season, more production will be required to boost Dallas into contention in the West. After a contract dispute kept Jamie Benn out to start the season, the 23-year-old has been strong, as has offseason acquisition Derek Roy. Ray Whitney, another offseason signing, could help after coming off injured reserve.
Still, the Stars find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoffs but with the picture changing on a daily basis, Dallas is in the thick of the chase.