Say hello to the 2013 Pacific Division Champs: your Anaheim Ducks.
Relish it, enjoy it, because it may be the last time the Pacific Division has a champion, ever.
The Ducks tonight beat the Oilers, 3-0, sweeping this season’s series with the Oilers while also clinching the Pacific Division title, and the second seed in the Western Conference. Perhaps more importantly however is that the Ducks who played tonight looked more like the Ducks who took the NHL by storm for the first half of the condensed season.
Ryan Getzlaf would get his fifteenth goal of the season on the powerplay tonight about 6 minutes into the first period. Radek Dvorak would follow him up about 5 minutes later, scoring his fourth goal in only 8 games off a beautiful no look pass from Emerson Etem.
The second period would be scoreless, but the Ducks would add to their lead in the third as Sami Vatanen picked up his second goal of the season with a perfect shot from the point that found it’s way into the top corner thanks to Ducks traffic in front of Nikolai Khabibulin. The game would remain at 3-0 and the Ducks would leave Rexall Place as Pacific Division champions.
Perhaps more importantly however was that the Ducks not only clinched 2nd place in the Western Conference, but that they seem to be rediscovering their game. Just consider some of the Ducks successes tonight:
- Fasth posted his 4th shutout of the season
- The Ducks scored on the powerplay, (out of three total powerplays)
- The Ducks got depth scoring from Radek Dvorak and Sami Vatenan
- The Ducks out-shot the Oilers 28-24
- The Ducks were perfect on the penalty kill, (3 for 3)
Add to this list that the Ducks played with no Bobby Ryan, Luca Sbisa, or Sheldon Souray, and that Oilers goaltender Khabibulin was the only reason the score wasn’t worse and you’re beginning to see a Ducks team coming back to their early season selves. Despite the game being the second in a back-to-back the Ducks seemed to show no signs of exhaustion. Teemu Selanne seemed to have more pep in his step and Nick Bonino continues to show himself as a solid glue player for the Ducks.
Now the Ducks need to keep the train rolling against teams that aren’t the Edmonton Oilers. The Ducks will be in Vancouver on Thursday and return home for the final game of the regular season on Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes. While neither game has much impact on potential playoff standings it nonetheless is important that the Ducks keep their confidence high entering into the playoffs.
But before looking forward to the playoffs we should take a moment to reflect.
Very few predicted that the Ducks would make the playoffs this year, making it a true accomplishment that they managed to win the Pacific Division, (especially in a division with the reigning Stanley Cup champs). Bruce Boudreau and all the coaching staff deserve a ton of credit, as do players who have had huge bounce back seasons this year, namely the captain Ryan Getzlaf. Bob Murray deserves a ton of credit for the signings/acquisitions of Sheldon Souray, Daniel Winnik, Radek Dvorak, Ben Lovejoy, Bryan Allen, David Steckel, and of course, Viktor Fasth.
Even bigger than all those moves however is that Bob Murray managed to re-sign Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. We still have to see how the Ducks perform in the playoffs but no matter the end result, no one was predicting the Ducks have as successful a season as they have had. The future looks bright in Anaheim.
So here’s to hoping for two more solid games from our Ducks as we wait to see who ends up in 7th place and our first round opponent. For tonight however let’s simply enjoy our 2nd place clinch, and that we get to hang at least one banner in the rafters next season. Oh, and how’s that for karma Justin Schultz? Congrats to the Anaheim Ducks, Pacific Division Champs!