Anaheim will face the dangerous Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Quarter Finals.
For the fourth straight season, the Anaheim Ducks have been crowned Pacific Division champions, but this year, the honor might be more of a curse for Orange Countyâ€™s beloved hockey club.
Starting the 2015-2016 down in the dumps of the NHL standing, the playoffâ€™s seemed like a foolâ€™s dream for the struggling Ducks. After being crippled by lack of scoring from star players like Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim focused on defense and goaltending to scrape its way back onto the top of the division leader boards.
The race for the Pacific Division came down to a freeway face-off between the two Southern California hockey clubs. The Kings got the better of the Ducks, taking a one-point lead in the division standings, but a loss to Winnipeg gave Anaheim the chance to steal back the lead. The Ducks went on to win their final two contests and gained a crucial four points to solidify their spot as the number one seed in the Pacific.
Although wining a division title is a source of pride, this season there is a possibility that the 2nd place team in the Pacific lucked out. Why? Because the no.1 seed will go into the first round having to face-off against all-star Filip Forsberg and the rest of the Nashville Predators.
Donâ€™t let the wild-card stop fool you; the Predators are the real deal this season and may just show the Ducks a thing or two about goal scoring. The Preds finished the regular season with 224 goals and average 30.6 shots per game. The biggest weapon for the Predators is the skilled hands of Filip Forsberg. Forsberg put away 33 goals this season and is ranked no. 12 in the league in goal scoring; he also finished the season with 64 points. His finesse with the puck and awareness around the crease makes him a true goal scorer and Anaheim is going to need to shut him down if they have any plans of moving onto the next round. Nashville is hot this season and the Ducks are going to have a lot on their hand this time around.
Yes, the Predators are a tough team, but it does not mean the Ducks are 100% SOL. The goaltending for Anaheim this
year has been outstanding, in fact the tag team pair of John Gibson and Frederik Anderson with the lowest goals against average. It is unclear which goalie will get the start Friday, April 15th to start their playoff run, but none the less, Anaheim will be secure in front of the net. New life from the Anaheim forwards has sparked some scoring for the Ducks as will. Acquiring Jaime McGinn from Buffalo before the trade deadline ended up being on e of the best moves the Ducks have made all season. His presence in front of the crease has given Anaheim countless scoring opportunities and he will be the X-factor for the Ducks during their Stanley Cup run.
Now where does the previously mentioned bad luck for the Ducks come into play? Well, finishing first in the division diverted Anaheim from doing up against San Jose. Playing San Jose in the playoffs is like a gift from the hockey gods. In the last 12 years, the Sharks have made 11 playoff appearances and have never made it past the conference finals. The Ducks won their last two games of the season to clinch the division title, so the Kings will now have the honor of playing the Sharks in the conference quarterfinals. San Jose fans say this is the season that the Sharks see the ice of a Stanley Cup final, but the Kings and the playoffs seem to be a deadly combo for the Northern California hockey club.
The Ducks will have their hands full with the Predators in the coming Western Conference quarterfinals, but are favored to win. If the Ducks and Kings both manage to win their first rounds, then we will all get to witness another brutal series between the So Cal powerhouses in the Conference Semi-Finals.