The San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have all been the class of the NHL’s Pacific Division in recent seasons and have been catalysts for the growth of hockey in California.
The Kings opened up a championship window several years ago that lead to two Stanley Cup titles and another trip to the Western Conference Final over the course of the last five seasons. The Ducks are stocked with dynamic playmakers and have made the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. The Sharks made a run to the Stanley Cup Final this season and exorcised many of their recent postseason woes in the process.
But if you look at all three teams, it seems like the only thing in common between them is the fact they’ve all enjoyed recent success. Just like the diverse terrain of California, all three clubs feature a very different makeup in where their strength lies.
When you think of offensive firepower and a California team, the first thought that might come to mind is the dynamic offensive talent of Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Not counting the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Getzlaf hasn’t finished with a point total lower than 63 dating back to the 2010-11 season, while Perry’s lowest total over that same span is 55. Both players combined for 125 points (47-78—125) in 159 combined regular season games last season in what some might say was a down year for the duo.
But with all this said, you can’t forget about the scorers with the other two squads. The Kings, of course, are lead on offense by Anze Kopitar with lots of help from Jeff Carter and even some scoring punch from Tyler Toffoli.
San Jose, meanwhile, has an elite scorer of their own in Joe Pavelski, who got a lot of help last season from a rejuvenated Joe Thornton, who posted point-per-game numbers, and defenseman Brent Burns, who carries a strong offensive punch in his game.
Despite great forwards in San Jose and Los Angeles, the likes of Getzlaf and Perry, along with the support of Ryan Kesler and emerging young player Rickard Rakell, puts them over the top in California.
When one thinks about Pacific Division hockey over the past couple of seasons, one of the first things they might associate with it is defense.
It might have something to do with the fact that the Kings have enjoyed the success they have in recent seasons due in large part to their defense, which is led by Drew Doughty and supported by the likes of Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin.
The Ducks also have a very deep defensive corps, too, which features Kevin Bieksa and Cam Fowler. And one would be remiss to forget about Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, two young defensemen who could play a big role on the Ducks’ blueline for years to come.
But behind the flash of the Kings “D” and the depth of the Ducks is the strong defense of the Sharks. Of course, they have their flash in Brent Burns, but he has help shutting down the opposition.
Homegrown D-man Justin Braun has a plus-minus of plus-38 over the past three seasons, while veteran Paul Martin provides depth, a steady presence and will be coming into his second season in San Jose having averaged over 20 minutes-per-game last season.
Everyone overlooks the Sharks defense because of their scoring but it’s a tough blue line in the Bay Area.
Advantage: Sharks (by a fin)
Like the defense, it’s tough to choose who might have the best goaltending in California because there’s so much good goaltending to choose from.
Martin Jones wasted no time in making himself a household name in his first season in San Jose, appearing in 65 regular season games and posting a record of 37-23-4 with a 2.27 goals against average (GAA), a 0.918 save percentage and six shutouts.
Goaltender John Gibson now has complete control of the Anaheim net after the trade of Frederik Andersen to Toronto. In 66 career games he has a record of 37-21-4 with a 2.22 GAA, a 0.920 save percentage and six shutouts.
But it’s in Los Angeles where the starting goaltender has the longest track record and the most impressive numbers in that time.
Jonathan Quick has appeared in 475 regular season contests and has over 250 wins, 40 shutouts and 27,000 minutes on his resume. He’s been a key component of the Kings’ title runs in recent seasons and has a career postseason record of 46-35 with a 2.27 GAA, a 0.921 save percentage and nine shutouts in 81 games.
Thirty-two of those 46 wins have came during LA’s two Cup runs.
Jones and Gibson might be names on the rise, but the class of California goaltending is still in Los Angeles.