After failing to qualify for the playoffs last season, the Anaheim Ducks were picked by most NHL pundits to once again be one of the league’s bottom feeders. With a 3-0 victory over Edmonton on Monday night, the Ducks clinched their second Pacific Division title in their 20-year history.
“It’s exciting to win the Pacific Division. It’s really big for us,” forward Andrew Cogliano told KDOC. “We had a lot of doubters at the beginning of the year. This is satisfying for everyone.”
The Ducks’ last Pacific Division title was back in the 2006-07 season when Anaheim went on to win its first and only Stanley Cup. The Ducks are locked in as the second seed in the Western Conference, guaranteeing them a minimum of home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Anaheim is still awaiting to find out its opening round playoff opponent. The likely opposition being Minnesota, Columbus or Detroit. These three teams are separated by just one point as they fight it out for the final two berths into the postseason.
The Ducks leave Edmonton in far better shape than when they arrived. Anaheim came to Edmonton having lost four straight, scoring a paltry five goals in their last four games. The Ducks’ offense came to life in sweeping this mini two-game series from the struggling Oilers, scoring three goals in each of the two contests.
While it may not be an offensive explosion, the Ducks are a virtual lock to win games when scoring at least three goals. Anaheim has won 39 of its last 43 games when it scores at least three times in a game.
Players will tell you that the playoffs are all about sacrifice — everyone doing whatever it takes to win — and Monday’s victory over Edmonton illustrated that the Ducks are already in playoff mode. While Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth made 24 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season, it was just four more shots than his Anaheim teammates, who blocked 20 shots on the game led by defenseman Toni Lydman with eight.
“The sacrifice of guys blocking shots is something you love to see as a coach. Guys were willing to pay the price to win and that is what you have to have at this time of the year,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau.
With the Pacific Division wrapped up, the Ducks can use their final two games at Vancouver (Thursday) and at home to Phoenix (Saturday) to give some players much needed rest while still doing things on the ice necessary to get ready for the playoffs.
“You still got to play hard,” said Cogliano, who is making his first trip to the postseason in his six years in the NHL. “You don’t want to have two wins and then not play hard in these last two games heading into the playoffs.”
Still, for Anaheim it’s nice to have the luxury knowing that its postseason fate has already been settled and it has earned the right once again to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup.