Monday night the Ducks wrapped up their second Pacific Division title in franchise history and the second seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. YAY! The only bummer is that their two remaining games against Vancouver (Thursday) and Phoenix (Saturday) are just about getting their shit together before the playoffs and hopefully staying healthy (knock on all of the wood).
So with that in mind, let's take a look at the games in the West that actually might influence who the Ducks will face when the post season starts next week.
Possible Opponents before Last Night's Action:
Starting off the night, Minnesota held down the seventh spot to the delight of 37.65% of Ducks fans responding to the survey on the Ducks' official website. I'm with them, as the Ducks have a better record against the Wild (3-0-0) than any of the other teams in the picture (next best by winning % is St. Louis) and they're one of only two teams who has been worse than the Ducks in their last ten (the other is Detroit, HA!).
Last Night's Games:
Everyone seems to be happy with this one. St. Louis officially clinched a playoff spot, Colorado stayed in 29th overall and the Blues stay ahead of Minnesota, away from a matchup with the Ducks. St. Louis is coming on strong to finish the season, as opposed to last year when Brian Elliott realized he was Brian-FREAKING-Elliott and had no safety net in Jaroslav Halak due to injury. Their defense is loaded with Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jay Bouwmeester, Jordan Leopold, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Kris Russell. One of those guys HAS to be scratched every night. Chris Stewart is having a good year with 18 goals, 34 points in 46 games; David "Inglourious" Backes is built to ruin guys in the playoffs; and former Duck/current Duck Killer, Andy McDonald is healthy. I do not want to see the Blues in the first round.
Of course it wasn't much of a surprise that St. Louis won. Avs beat writer Adrian Dater (Denver Post) tweeted this Spoiler Alert three minutes into the second period:
Blues take 2-0 lead. Game over— adater (@adater) April 24, 2013
So, good for the Blues to easily win a game they should have won easily. That's more than we could have said about the Ducks last week.
Wild 2, Kings 1
The game of the night in the West: Minnesota took an early lead with goals from Charlie Coyle and Cal Clutterbuck just 16 seconds apart and then held on with a few close calls. Justin Williams had a goal disallowed for a high stick and Niklas Backstrom made a craaaaaazy save to seal the victory for the Wild with 11 seconds left. They couldn't dodge every bullet, as Jeff Carter's goal came with only 0.8 seconds left in the second period.
There was also a somewhat controversial incident involving everyone's favorite King, Dustin Brown. The LA captain reverse hit Jason Pommenville with an elbow (or upper arm, but not shoulder as Jim Fox claims in the clip) to the head. Possible suspension? Maybe. Will it last into the playoffs? Doubtful. This is a play that happens in every single game, Pommenville was coming in low, Brown braced himself and gave him a little shot without looking. If anything he'll get a game for being reckless. Ironically, as Michael Russo of the Star Tribune pointed out in the above linked article, a suspension would really only hurt Minnesota more, as the Kings play Detroit tonight.
This was a brobdingnagian victory for Minnesota to win their game in hand over Lubmus, keep pace with St. Louis, create a buffer zone over Detroit AND do it in regulation to improve their first tiebreaker (Regulation and Overtime Wins). With games against lowly Colorado and Edmonton remaining, they're in pretty good shape to make the playoffs and for now they stay nestled comfortably in that seventh seed, right where we want them. (Yes, I am aware that I'm tempting magumbo by rooting so hard to meet Minnesota, but I can't help it).
Also with this win, Phoenix cannot catch Minnesota so they can only finish as high as eighth, and won't match up against the Ducks in Round One.
This is the definition of a heartbreaker for Dallas. Leading by one with five and a half to go, they give up two in 30 seconds and lose in regulation. BRUTAL! This loss combined with Minnesota's win means that the Stars can't play Anaheim in the first round either, the best they can do is eighth.
San Jose officially clinched a spot in the post season, and continues to play some pretty good hockey when it counts. As a Ducks fan, I have no problem with them winning this game because it puts them back into a tie with Los Angeles and if it ends that way, one of them (San Jose) will have to be eliminated. Also they play each other in the final game of the regular season. If they know they're going to meet in Round One and/or that game could decide home ice, it would get real spicy!
The Bubble Now:
Not much change, but that's cool by me.
Los Angeles at Detroit: Can The Joe please be swallowed up by a sink hole? If not, I guess Detroit losing would be most beneficial to the Ducks because the Kings have no bearing on us anymore and F*** Detroit!
Chicago at Edmonton: No impact on the Ducks, Chicago could clinch the Presidents' Trophy (who cares) and Edmonton could get better odds for a 453rd straight first overall selection.
San Jose at Phoenix: San Jose can officially be ruled out as a potential Ducks first round opponent with a point.