With ten games remaining in the regular season, the Ducks know that they're going to make the playoffs, but nobody knows which team they are going to face off against in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. There are quite a few possible outcomes, all depending on what the Ducks do in the last ten days and what the rest of the conference does. Let's take a look at what could happen.
Option 1: Kings Win Division
In perhaps the mostly likely scenario, none of the three California teams heat up or cool down enough to knock LA out of the top spot. Regardless of what happens with the Wild Cards and the race for best record in the conference, the Kings take home their first ever Pacific Division title, and the Ducks play the Sharks. Pretty simple. Maybe the Sharks pass the Ducks to earn home ice, but that's the only possible first-round variable as far as the Ducks are concerned.
Option 2: Sharks Win Division
Less likely, because it would require San Jose to make up five points in ten games, but still possible. This is also pretty simple. The Ducks would play the Kings, with home ice going to the team with the better record.
Option 3: Ducks Win Division
Assuming (for the sake of argument) that they win their game in hand on the Kings, the Ducks will be two points back of the division lead. Clearly, they've got a better shot than the Sharks. So let's say they pull it off. Now things get interesting.
Option 3A: Ducks Win Division and Win Conference
If the Ducks are able to overtake LA and all three Central Division leaders, they would finish first in the conference and play the second Wild Card team, which will be either the Minnesota Wild or the Colorado Avalanche. This would be straight awesome. No player or coach would ever admit it, but everyone in the Ducks organization would be thrilled to draw either of these teams in the first round.
Of course, that can't happen unless things go really well in these last ten games. Sure, they've got two games in hand on all three of the Central Division leaders. But even if they win both those games, they'd still need to make up four points to catch Dallas. Is it possible? Of course. But that's not the important question here.
Option 2B: Ducks Win Division, Don't Win Conference
Even assuming they overtake the Kings, the odds are they won't overtake all three Central teams, especially the conference-leading Dallas Stars. So in this scenario, they draw the first Wild Card, which right now is the Nashville Predators. That team is scary enough, but if they win their game in hand on Chicago, they'd only be two points behind the Blackhawks, and playing better hockey going into the final few games. Which means a division win could very well mean a date with the three-time Stanley Cup Champions. Thanks, but no thanks.
What Does It Mean?
Quite simply, that the final weekend of the season could be a hell of a lot of fun. Nerve-wracking fun, for sure, but what other type is there for hockey fans?
All 30 teams will be in action on what was supposed to be the last day of the season, Saturday April 9th. Then on Sunday, four teams will take the ice in a pair of makeup games. One is a potential deal breaker for the Philadelphia Flyers as they take on the Islanders in New York, while the Red Wings (possibly) watch and wait and know what it means to be powerless.
The other is the Ducks' season finale in Washington. Imagine if the Pacific Division is on the line for that game. Who will Kings fans root for? How badly would Bruce Boudreau want to win in his old barn if it means opening up against the Blackhawks instead of the Sharks? (How happy are the Sharks that they finally get to be underdogs?)