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NHL Division Preview: Pacific Division Preview
Team Most Likely to Win: Anaheim Ducks, +180
The Anaheim Ducks finished at the top of a very competitive Western Conference last season and lost a very tough and exciting conference finals series to the Chicago Blackhawks – who eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Ducks are a tough, gritty team able to stick out and win games many other teams would lose. The Ducks top scorers; Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry – who missed 15 games last season – and Ryan Kessler can matchup against and shutdown opponents top scorers. Young defensemen Cam Fowler, Sam Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm should continue to improve and easily compensate for the Ducks average goaltending.
Team Most Likely to Challenge for the Division Title: Los Angeles Kings, +275
A Stanley Cup hangover kept the Kings out of the playoffs in 2015, but the team is too talented to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year. The Kings have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL with Jonathan King. Quick does benefit from some superb defensemen playing in front of him and helping keep each game low scoring and close. The Kings biggest weakness is their lack of depth on the wings. The Kings have not won a division title in almost 25 years, but are built for success in the playoffs and on the road. If the Kings cannot dethrone the Ducks in the regular season, they still have an excellent shot at winning their third Stanley Cup in five seasons.
Biggest Sleeper Team to Win the Division: San Jose Sharks
After a down season the Sharks can turn things around from the combination of great home ice advantage, a new starting goaltender and a mixture of veterans and young players. Signing Martin Jones – formerly the backup in Los Angeles – gives the Sharks a strong upgrade in the crease. Jones only has 34 games of NHL experience, but has recorded 7 shutouts and has a career goals against average of 1.99. The team is filled with a mixture of veterans – like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau – who know the Sharks window to win a cup with them is winding down, and youth like Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl who have progressed enough to keep the Sharks competitive now and help them return to the playoffs in 2015.
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