By: Cory Vest
A fifth straight Pacific Division title was claimed by the Anaheim Ducks as they got the point they needed in their last game of the season. The Ducks took on crosstown rival Los Angeles Kings this past Sunday needing just a single point to continue their reign over the Pacific Division. The point was earned as the Ducks and Kings ended regulation in a 3-3 tie. The Ducks’ Shea Theordore ended up putting the cherry on top of another great regular season with a game winner in overtime.
Clinching the top spot in the division set up a first-round match up against the Calgary Flames. The Ducks beat the Flames in back-to-back matchups toward the end of the season with a 4-3 win on April 2nd in Calgary, and then a 3-1 victory April 4th in Anaheim. Those two wins were just a small portion of Anaheim’s 14 game point streak they’ll be taking with them into the playoffs.
Several other playoff teams fell victim to the red-hot Ducks during their streak as well. The Blackhawks, Rangers, Sharks, Blues, Oilers, and Capitals were all left with the bitter taste of defeat.
All signs seem to be pointing up for the Ducks as they start their run for Lord Stanley’s cup. Home ice holds special significance in their battle with the Flames as the Ducks have tallied 25 straight regular season wins in the friendly confines of Honda Center against the club from Calgary. The Ducks finished the regular season campaign with a 46-23-13 record. The Flames ended with a 45-33-4 record. All will get wiped clean however on Thursday when the postseason begins.
The Ducks will be without Cam Fowler for a stretch of the playoffs thanks to the Flames’ Mark Giordano. In their last matchup, Giordano laid a knee-on-knee hit on Fowler. Needless to say, the Ducks weren’t too happy about the incident. Giordano got away scot free, the Ducks felt a suspension should have been handed out, while Fowler is expected to miss 2 to 6 weeks. After the hit, Josh Manson sought retribution as he and Giordano engaged in fisticuffs. Of the 112 penalty minutes in the game, 106 of them occurred after the fight. To say things are going to be heated during the playoff series is not only a pun, it is an understatement.
The Ducks will certainly miss Fowler, the team’s leader in ice time and defensive force, but should fare well enough. What they may lack on defense will be made up for with the great goal keeping provided by both John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier. The two have a save percentage of 92% and 91% respectively. Gibson carried the load during the season boasting a 25-16-9 record allowing 2.22 goals per game. Bernier supplemented Gibson throughout the season, especially during Gibson’s injury. When Bernier started, he tallied an impressive 21 wins compared to 7 losses in regulation and 4 losses in overtime. Bernier allowed 2.5 goals per game. Overall, the Ducks were third in the league in goals allowed.
The Ducks are more than capable of putting points on the board as well. Patrick Eaves, an addition made before the trade deadline, has paid dividends. In 20 games with Anaheim, Eaves has netted 11 goals. A blistering pace that has been set thanks to his prime positioning in front of the net and ability to crash the crease on rebounds. In addition to the hot hand of Eaves, the Ducks have talented skater and puck handler Rickard Rakell. Rakell accumulated a team leading 33 goals during the season. Ryan Getzlaf, el capitan, led the team in both assist and points. Of course, one cannot sleep on veteran Corey Perry, Jakob ooo ahh Silfverberg, or the talented Ryan Kesler. Each of them have the ability to contribute in numerous ways.
As long as this series doesn’t go seven games; the ducks lost their first-round series against the Sabres last year 4-3, lost the Conference Final series the year before against the Blackhawks 4-3, lost their series in 2013-14 to the Kings 4-3 in the second round, and in 2012-13, the Ducks lost the Conference Quarterfinals series to the Red Wings, care to guess? Yes, 4-3. So, I say again, as long as the series doesn’t go to a game 7, the Ducks should advance.
Ducks will drop one game in Calgary but will win the rest, advancing to the next round. Awaiting them will be the winner of the San Jose, Edmonton series. With great talent on both sides of the puck, a new head coach in Randy Carlyle and a decent amount of playoff experience, the Ducks have a chance at hoisting the cup.