One win, two points: Pacific Division Title. That’s what could be a wonderful by-product of an Anaheim Ducks win in Edmonton tonight.
If the Ducks win tonight they will win only their second Pacific Division title, the first having come the year they won the Stanley Cup. If history truly repeats itself then the playoffs could look very good for the Ducks.
However let’s not forget that previous to last night’s win in Edmonton the Ducks had lost four straight games, (two at home and two on the road). The Ducks incredible first half of the season has allowed them to stay in the tops of the standings, but in recent weeks they have done little to help themselves maintain that position.
Now the question has shifted from what damage might the Ducks do in the playoffs, to might they be the leading candidate for a first round upset/exit? A win tonight would certainly help build back some momentum for the Ducks who need to regain some confidence before the playoffs begin.
Sadly it’s not as thought the Ducks are going up against a playoff caliber team tonight. With last night’s loss the Oilers have officially been eliminated from the playoffs and to make matters worse, they are without one of their leading players as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out for the season with a shoulder injury. The Oilers have little to battle for but pride considering they stand no shot at the playoffs and can’t play spoiler for the Ducks with the Ducks having already clinched a playoff spot.
Even more reason that this game is more about the Ducks re-establishing their game and their confidence.
The Ducks need to take these last few games to solidify their style of game, and where possible, their line combinations and defensive pairings. That of course becomes more difficult with Luca Sbisa out of the lineup and Sheldon Souray questionable. While this is the time for them to get healthy there is no doubt the Ducks need to find their game again, pieces such as Sbisa and Souray certainly help the puzzle come back together much more easily. Having Nick Bonino back in the lineup has already proved advantageous and, despite no Sbisa and the possibility of no Souray, tonight should be a night that the Ducks pick up steam.
The Ducks have a chance tonight to both clinch the Pacific Division and 2nd place in the Western Conference, both of which would be enormous wins for the Ducks and have serious playoff implications. While the Ducks are guaranteed home ice for the first round of the playoffs, coming 2nd in the standings guarantees home ice for the 1st and 2nd rounds, (assuming the Ducks make it to the 2nd round). Based on how well the Ducks have played on home ice this season there should be no disputing how advantageous home ice in the playoffs could prove to be.