Every Thursday, Earl Sleek will conspire with his pen and scanner to bring you another installment of PuckToons. Hopefully you will find these amusing, relevant, well-drawn, or you're a person who is tolerant towards mediocrity.
Well, it's two weeks into the North American NHL season, and already my Pacific Division previews need work. While I expected the San Jose Sharks to push for the division lead, I certainly thought it would be a much closer race. Really, the surprise isn't that San Jose has started so well (6-1-0), but rather how poorly the rest of the division has started.
Two of the more disappointing starts belong to the Anaheim Ducks (2-5-0) and the Dallas Stars (2-4-1), two teams that I had pegged to run neck-and-neck with the Sharks. The Ducks' problem has primarily been offensive -- the top two scoring lines in Anaheim have only netted one combined goal -- while the Stars have been struggling to keep the puck out of their net -- they have surrendered a league-hgih 29 goals-against. The Los Angeles Kings (2-3-0) and Phoenix Coyotes (2-3-0) are also well behind the Sharks, although they have played two fewer games than their division mates.
Yes, the 2008-09 NHL season is awfully young, but it is worth noting that only one time since the lockout has San Jose.led the Pacific Division by as many as seven points (the final week of last season), and if the playoffs began today, they'd be the only Pacific team to qualify. There's still plenty of time for the bottom four in the Pacific to turn their seasons around, but if the Sharks don't falter, it's going to be weird seeing a usually-competitive division turn into a one-horse race.