Monday, February 13, 2012

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings: Who Will Win the Pacific Division and Why

For years we have heard of how special the Los Angeles Kings were going to be once they matured and grew as a unit. That maturation and a few trades have the Kings finally in contention to win the Pacific Division and clinch a top-3 seed in the Western Conference. But the San Jose Sharks continue to stand in their way, which is going to make it one thrilling second half of the season in California.

The Sharks have been through injuries, inconsistent play and have showed clear weaknesses in their play this season, something we have not seen in years past. Incredibly, San Jose still holds on to a three-point lead in the Pacific Division, showing that it will take more than an up-and-down first half of the season to slow down this team. They are poised to contend for the Stanley Cup year after year, making them a tough team to take down, even for as talented a team as the Kings.

However, as skilled as they are, the Sharks will be winning the Pacific Division for another year this season.

Despite the low profile, San Jose is as good a team as there is in the NHL -- their success against top-notch teams this season proves that. It is the playoffs that get them when they are not looking, not the regular season.

The Kings are too inconsistent for a title in the Western Conference, and judging by the play of the Phoenix Coyotes recently, there may be another team more deserving to win this division than the Kings.

As terrific a top-5 defense as the Kings have, their offense has been equally terrible and inconsistent. They average 2.1 goals per game this season. That kind of generated offense will not win many games down the stretch, nor will it knock anyone out in the playoffs. With this much talent on that team, those numbers simply do not add up.

Losing four of their last six games during as big a stretch of games as ever is not going to cut it either. The Sharks are currently on a nine-game road-trip in which anything can happen. If there was a time to win games and overtake the Pacific Division lead, it would be now for the Kings.

In the end, the Sharks have yet to make their annual second half run up the Western Conference. That could be because of the Martin Havlat injury, but it will happen sooner or later. It always does.

We might have to wait until March to see it, though. Havlat will be returning in mid-March and GM Doug Wilson is sure to make a significant move at the trade deadline to bolster this team.

When all is said and done, the Sharks should win the Pacific Division by 10 points and claim a top-3 seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.

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