Despite last night's loss to the Coyotes, the Ducks still maintain the best record in the Pacific in divisional games (8-5-0). The Pacific Division is topsy turvy this year. The Stars are good, the Sharks are bad and there's generally panic in the streets of London.
Daniel, do you think the Ducks have a better shot at making the playoffs with this midseason mise en scene in the Pacific, or do you think it will be just as hard as it would have been if the first half of the year played out just as the experts predicted.
I think it's always easier to make headway when nobody knows what's going on. If the Sharks and Kings can stay shell shocked a little longer, and we can continue to play with confidence, then I think we have a strong chance of cracking the top 8 come April. The Ducks do have a strong Division record, and that stat is more encouraging if a couple teams continue struggling. As it stands, the Coyotes are between us and second in the division and despite last night's loss, we have had a decent history with Phoenix, from a competitive standpoint. As such, I think we are in a situation we weren't in when the year started, controlling our own destiny.
The most important stat to lean on right now is point percentage. Right now, the Ducks are 15th in the league in point percentage and 8th in the Western Conference. At that pace, they should finish in a playoff position. With the Kings and Sharks struggling, that pace should be a little easier to maintain than if they were in a division where every team was playing well. If things had played out like the preseason predictions had expected, the Ducks inconsistencies would have them long since buried with no chance at the playoffs.
I don't think it's enough for the Sharks and Kings to keep struggling and the Stars to continue soaring. To REALLY make things easier on the Ducks, everyone needs to turn their season around (or into a nosedive) and finish with middle-of-the-road records. And conceivably, something like that could happen as the Sharks make a push and the Stars run into teams making their own late season pushes.
The situation does seem rife with opportunity, because, as you said, no one knows what's going on. But apparent confusion isn't always an opportunity. It may be an optical illusion more than anything else. Stars on top and Sharks on bottom is a transposition of names, at best, if the Sharks continue to struggle and the Stars continue to succeed. At that point, anyone saying the Ducks are likely to make the playoffs is hanging their hopes on the mere appearance of unpredictability and the NHL "experts" diet of crow.
Everything still hangs on the Ducks, but as with any season, as long as no one is running away with it (or looks like they can keep running away with it) just yet, then they're still in this thing . . . he said the weekend before a tough road trip.