Following Anaheim's 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks solidified their Western Conference title, matching them up with the second wild card Winnipeg Jets. Overall, the Ducks have had some great games, and some not-so-great games, however they still managed to sweep the regular season series, with three wins in three games played against Winnipeg.
In those three wins, the top scorer for the Ducks was young forward, Rickard Rakell with a total of six points (2-4-6) in just three games played. Every showdown included Frederik Andersen manning the blue paint for Anaheim, while the two overtime losses for the Jets came on Ondrej Pavelec's time, and their only regulation loss came with Michael Hutchinson in the crease. For Winnipeg, their most lethal scoring threat was Andrew Ladd, who tallied three points (2-1-3) in three total games played.
So what did the matchups between Winnipeg and Anaheim look like during the regular season? Here's a quick refresher on the three showdowns between these two teams that will meet in the first round of Playoff hockey.
Game 1: December 7, 2014: Ducks 4 @ Jets 3 (OT)
The first game between these two clubs was a heated matchup full of penalties, power plays, and scoring chances. The teams combined for 54 hits, 55 shots on goal, and 39 penalty minutes during the game, with each team succeeding at scoring with the extra attacker twice on six opportunities. Definitely some impressive numbers considering it was the first matchup of these two teams for this season.
Despite an admittedly sluggish start to the game, the special teams units managed to carry the team early with help from Frederik Andersen and his impressive goaltending. Throughout the night the expected big names were called upon to help drive the play, including Ryan Getzlaf (who ended the night with three assists, including a primary assist on the overtime game-winning goal), Ryan Kesler (who tallied Anaheim's go ahead goal late in the second period on the power play), and unsung hero, Kyle Palmieri (who potted the game-winning goal with a beautiful half rotation into a snipe shot hitting nothing but net and earning Anaheim the two-points).
Anaheim ended the game leading in blocked shots and faceoffs won, however trailed in hits, shots on goal, and takeaways. Yet the important number, the scoreboard, still ended up tilting in Anaheim's favor, and even though it could be a touch of luck, sometimes that can be enough to propel a team through a few games in the post-season as well.
Game 2: December 13, 2014: Ducks 4 @ Jets 1
Anaheim managed to extend a winning streak to seven games with a decisive 4-1 victory over the Jets in Winnipeg. In the game marking Andersen's 18th consecutive start between the pipes, the Anaheim netminder managed 27 saves on 28 shots faced, with just one power play shot slipping by into the net behind him.
Despite Winnipeg jumping into an early lead with a Bryan Little power play opportunity finding net, Anaheim's goaltending tightened up, and the offense would explode in the following two periods for a rather decisive win over the home team. In the second period alone, the Ducks tallied three goals, one on the power play from Jakob Silfverberg's stick, one even strength off a shot from Ryan Getzlaf, and one shorthanded accredited to Nate Thompson.
The 3-1 lead would stand through most of the third period, and even withstood added pressure when Winnipeg pulled goalie, Michael Hutchinson, to the bench in favor of the sixth attacker. However, Anaheim potted their fourth goal with the empty net, shorthanded goal from Andrew Cogliano. Despite the promising power play performances in the first matchup of the season, each team would only convert once on the power play with Winnipeg ending the night 1/4 on the power play, and Anaheim closing out with one goal on five chances with the extra man.
As expected, the teams would tally impressive numbers of hits, with a combined total of 66 on the night, and unlike their first meeting, the Ducks would end up leading in shots on goal with 31 to Winnipeg's 28. Overall, despite admittedly close possession statistics, Anaheim ended up converting on more chances, thus giving them a 4-1 win that appears more dominant on the scoreboard than it actually was on the ice.
Game 3: Teemu Night, January 11, 2015: Ducks 5 vs. Jets 4 (OT)
On the first and only night that Anaheim has ever retired a player's number, it is only fitting that the game that follows is both hard fought and dramatic. Under the watchful eye of the night's honoree, Teemu Selanne, Winnipeg jumped out of the gate with an early lead, ending the first period with a 3-1 lead that seemed to deflate the Anaheim lineup. Only Rickard Rakell's power play goal would stand as a goal in favor of the Ducks, however it was not enough when their opponents had goals from Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, and Mark Scheifele all in the opening frame as well.
The second period was relatively even with one goal for each team, Anaheim's coming from the unlikely source of Tim Jackman, while the Jets' captain Andrew Ladd tallied the goal that would re-extend their lead to two goals. Tempers began flaring more so with 13 of Anaheim's 17 total power play minutes fell in the second period alone, so considering much of the middle frame was played with at least one less man than their opponents, it's impressive that the Ducks not only managed to keep the game within reach, but also managed some stretches of promising chances and steady possession statistics.
During the third period, Anaheim would find a rhythm and manage a power play goal from Kyle Palmieri and a game-tying goal from Rickard Rakell who ended the night with a rookie record-tying four total points (2-2-4). After a scoreless five-minute overtime period of 4-on-4, the teams ended the night in a dramatic six-round shootout with the winning goal coming from Anaheim's sixth shooter, defenseman Sami Vatanen.
On one of the most emotional nights in Anaheim Ducks history who could have written a better way to close out the three-game season series than in dramatic shootout fashion? Not to mention, one of the greatest players for both the Anaheim franchise and the city of Winnipeg (remember these are the former Atlanta Thrashers we're talking about) watching from a seat in his suite. Need more sweet icing? How about playing this emotionally-charged game under his number, which had been lifted to the rafters earlier that night marking the first jersey number retired in Anaheim history?
Yeah. That should be enough to give you chills.
The post-season showdown between the Jets and Ducks will mark the first ever playoff meeting of these two teams in franchise history, and the schedule was announced following Anaheim's victory on Saturday evening in Arizona and is as follows:
Game 1: Thursday, April 16, 2015 @ 7:30pm PST at Honda Center
Game 2: Saturday, April 18, 2015 @ 7:30pm PST at Honda Center
Game 3: Monday, April 20, 2015 @ 6:00pm PST at MTS Centre
Game 4: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 @ 6:30pm PST at MTS Centre
Game 5: Friday, April 24, 2015 (Time: to be determined) at Honda Center
Game 6: Sunday, April 26, 2015 (Time: to be determined) at MTS Centre
Game 7: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 (Time: to be determined) at Honda Center