The Anaheim Ducks didn’t play on Tuesday night, but had a reason to celebrate anyway.
With a little help from the Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks clinched their spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blackhawks defeated the Dallas Stars 4-2 on Tuesday night, giving the Ducks their second consecutive playoff appearance. It is the first time Anaheim has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 2007-2009.
Anaheim will be looking to redeem itself following last season’s early playoff exit. The Ducks earned the No. 2 seed and fell in seven games to the No. 7 seed Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
With the Red Wings off to the Eastern Conference, the Ducks have a few different scenarios regarding possible opponents.
And it all depends on where Anaheim finishes in the Pacific Division.
Scenario #1: Anaheim Ducks win Pacific Division; First Round Match-up: Minnesota Wild or Phoenix Coyotes
The most ideal situation for the Ducks would be to win the Pacific Division for multiple reasons. If the Ducks comeback and overtake the San Jose Sharks for first place (four points behind with 11 games to play), it would be Anaheim’s second straight division title.
Which Ducks fan wouldn’t want that?
The reward would also include avoiding the dreaded first round match-up against the Los Angeles Kings as the Ducks would secure a top-2 seed and play a wild card team.
With the way things are shaping up, the Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes look to be the two wild card teams in the Western Conference.
If that’s the case, the opponent will depend on if the Ducks finish first or second in conference.
A first place finish would pit the Ducks against the No. 8 seed (Coyotes as of Mar. 26) while a second place finish would be a repeat of last year as they would play the No. 7 seed (Wild as of Mar. 26).
Either way, a Pacific Division title and a match-up against either the Wild or Coyotes is the best situation for the Ducks.
Scenario #2: Anaheim Ducks finish second in Pacific Division; First Round Match-Up: Los Angeles Kings
If Southern California ever wants to make a statement about being a hockey hotbed, a Ducks-Kings playoff series would be the time to do it.
A heated rivalry as it is, a playoff series of the Freeway Face-Off would put the rest of the NHL on notice that hockey life is good in SoCal.
As good as a Ducks-Kings series would be for TV, it would be an absolute war on ice. Both teams do not like each other and will beat up one another to the point where it could have a lingering effect for the rest of the postseason.
The new playoff format pits the second place team in the division against the third place finisher. Therefore, if the Ducks don’t win the Pacific Division, they will meet the Los Angeles Kings in the first round no matter where Anaheim finishes in the Western Conference.
With that in mind, the Ducks need to finish the last 11 games strong in order to avoid this scenario early in the playoffs.
1st in Division; 1st in Conference
- Ducks vs. Last Wild Card Team (No. 8 seed). Currently — Phoenix Coyotes
1st in Division; 2nd in Conference
- Ducks vs. First Wild Card Team (No. 7 seed). Currently — Minnesota Wild
2nd in Division
- Ducks vs. No. 3 seed in Pacific Division. Currently — Los Angeles Kings
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