While it's nice to believe that on any given night, any professional team can beat any other professional team, the Ducks had a tall order when trying to take out the Vancouver Canucks without the aid of Saku Koivu or Jonas Hiller. It would be hard to blame a Ducks fan for marking the contest as an unlikely win on the calendar.
However, moving forward, the Ducks have a game against the Rangers, and then the remaining contests against the rest of the Western Conference hopefuls, with every team either below Anaheim in the standings or within shouting distance ahead of the Ducks. Daniel, from here on out, it looks like four point games with very few mismatches favoring the opposition. Still, some wins and some losses will be bigger than others. Give me the one game you think the Ducks need to steal and the one game they absolutely cannot drop if they want to keep themselves in the playoff race.
I'd like to present a minor caveat. Every game against the Stars and Kings is a must win, since they are the two closest teams to the Ducks at the bottom of the conference. And, they all play each other over the next two weeks. In fact, the Kings and Stars play twice. Those games will determine how high the Ducks' hurdle will be. As such, I believe the Ducks have to steal the two points at Dallas on the 23rd. The Stars will be coming in off 3 days rest, while the Ducks will be only two days away from the second game of a back to back. There's a strong chance that the Stars will be coming off a loss to the Flyers and will be desperate for 2 points. Plus, when these teams meet on the 23rd, they will have played the same number of games. At that point, it will be imperative for the Ducks to get two points in regulation, and they're going to have to take it from the Stars in Dallas.
My first instinct is to say that the Ducks absolutely had to win this game against the Canucks. It would have put them into sole possession of 8th place in the Conference, put their destiny a little more into their hands, and guaranteed that Koivu wouldn't have to come back in a must win game. As it stands, the Ducks absolutely have to beat the New York Rangers on Wednesday. It's a non conference opponent, but that's exactly why they have to win. They need this opportunity to pilfer points from teams when the extra point doesn't matter. Moreover, the Ducks are only 2 weeks removed from a 5 game losing streak. It's 12 different kinds of important for the Ducks to not let the losses pile up. If this team wants to have a shot at the playoffs, they HAVE to beat the Rangers. If they don't, they'll wake up Thursday morning and find themselves buried in the Western Conference standings.
Having said that, I think last night's game was the game the Ducks absolutely could not drop.
I think it's too much to say that any team can't afford to lose to the Vancouver Canucks this season. I mean, the best team in the NHL, unless they have fallen into criminal complacency when you face them, is probably going to make you earn it, and the Ducks were a little light in the crease and on the faceoff dot.
Obviously, a loss to Colorado would hurt moving forward, as would a loss to St. Louis. Their urgency is at least partially diminished. The Ducks really can't afford to lose to teams who have nothing to play for at this point. And I really want to circle both Colorado games, which are offset in the schedule with adequate rest, and really give the Ducks a chance to feel good about themselves. They're must-not-lose contests in the middle of a heated race.
The points I think Anaheim will have to steal are not in Dallas on the 23rd, but in Nashville the next day on the 24th. Road back to backs are the perfect excuse to pick up a loss, but the Ducks can't afford that. I don't want to hear anything about a 5:00pm start, maybe a tough game (but hopefully a win) the night before or the travel in between. The Ducks have to steal those points.
That being said, every game between now and then is a must-win anyways. A losing streak in the near future makes this discussion moot, and puts us on the track of discussing how many games the Ducks should tank to improve their draft pick.