The goal that cost the Ducks the Pacific.— Kyle Nicolas (@ACKyleNicolas) March 21, 2014
I tweeted this out after the Ducks fell to the Sharks in brutal fashion and I've been getting flack for it when there are so many games left in the season. Since Twitter has this little 140 character limit, I'm using this to explain myself. To say the least my confidence in this team is extraordinarily low right now. Add that in with the fact that the Sharks have been playing their best hockey of the season for the most part (barring one or two bad losses) and you have a gut feeling that once Anaheim lost their lead in the division, the Sharks would take it and will never look back, dooming Anaheim to a first round matchup with the Kings, which, even though they've won the last three matchups against them, I still don't see them winning. LA's recent playoff record and tenacious defense is too strong of a winning formula in the postseason. Granted if you're a podcast listener you know that I'm usually the pessimistic one who is often super hard on the team for their mistakes, which have been compounding alarmingly during this slumping second half of the season. So you may be inclined straight away to dismiss me as someone who's running around screaming about the sky falling. However, I feel I have a bit of leeway in doing so because this team is in the middle of what's just short of a pretty remarkable freefall from mid-season glory. Over the span of ten days, the Ducks saw a nine point lead in the Pacific Division evaporate entirely, as the Sharks went from an afterthought to suddenly tied with the Ducks for the lead. It's taken a little over a week to do it, but they've finally done it and have passed the Ducks to take sole possession of the division lead. Now the Ducks do have a game in hand on the Sharks still, and hold the tie breaker by a good margin (though admittedly with all this pathetic losing that's dwindling too). So should Anaheim manage to tie San Jose again they would immediately vault back atop the division by nature of having not played in a lot of shootouts. But I'm not anticipating that happening. Our schedule for the remainder of this season appears on the outset to be "easy." We face the lowly Edmonton Oilers three times, the Vancouver Canucks twice, and the Calgary Flames once, with a contest against the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers mixed in as well. None of those teams currently occupy a playoff position. In theory, they're points the Ducks should have. But we can't forget that the Calgary Flames blew the Ducks out of their building after the team came out flat and treated the game like a walkover. That loss punctuated a stretch of four straight defeats and came on the heels of a contender for our worst performance of the season in a 3-1 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In games where the Ducks should be collecting points, they're coming out flat and squandering chances. It's squandered what was once a 10+ point lead in the division, and now has the Ducks facing a first round matchup with Los Angeles. Taking a look at San Jose's remaining schedule, they will play the exact same teams the Ducks will, including matchups with Los Angeles and Colorado at home, where they've been damn near unstoppable this season, going 26-5-4. The only difference in their schedule is they will face the Oilers only twice while finishing out their season against the Phoenix Coyotes. Combine that with a stretch that has seen them go 8-1-1 in their last 10 and the Sharks are playing their best hockey at the right time of the season. It's certainly not likely that San Jose will win out the rest of the season, but likewise neither will Anaheim, and if you ask me right now who is more likely to lose more games, the answer is pretty much unquestionably Anaheim. That game in hand may not matter if the Ducks once again fail to pick up points against an opponent they should be beating. And sadly with Anaheim's recent struggles on both sides of the special teams and countless small mistakes leading to goals against, it's unfortunately likely that it will happen again.