The Anaheim Ducks are going to the playoffs. Ducks fans across the nation can breathe a huge sign of relief. They needed two points (in any fashion) after St. Louis lost, and they came out in the third period with an energy of a team that knew it and wanted it. This season was a hard fought uphill battle the entire way, but the team showed the strength and determination needed to make themselves worthy of challenging for the most coveted trophy in all of sports.
It took some time for the Ducks to get going as they traded some back and forth chances with the Wild, but ultimately got out-chanced in the first. The second was more of the same until the Wild converted on a power play opportunity. Shortly after the Ducks tied it up from Nick Ritchie getting a “Nick Ritchie” goal. The goal was looked at for goalie interference, but remained a good goal. Here’s a few different looks at it, if you care to be a judge.
NICK RITCHIE'S FEED FINDS THE BACK OF THE NET! TIE GAME! pic.twitter.com/1YvTboPnbn— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) April 5, 2018
Francois Beauchemin was interviewed after the game and talked about how the team found out the Blues lost, and the playoff spot was up for grabs, right before they skated out for the third period. They responded by coming out and dominating the period, controlling 80% of the scoring chances (both normal and high-danger) and generating a 76.9 CF% as a team.
It took just 4 minutes remaining in the game for the Ducks to break the tie as Ondrej Kase buried a rebound, scoring the eventual game-winner and his 20th of the season. Andrew Cogliano would pot the empty net goal two minutes later to finish the game off and cause Honda Center to go wild (pun slightly intended).
This season was unlike any of the previous 5 or so seasons. For the sixth time in a row the Ducks clinched a playoff spot, but this time around it didn’t come with a Pacific Division title. In fact, whether the Ducks made the playoffs at all was questionable until the 3rd to last game of the season. This was primarily due to the horrendous beginning the Ducks were forced to manage, as a large chunk of their team ended up on the injury list. Most of the players missing from the lineup were also the team leaders, which meant everyone playing was asked to take on more responsibility and play bigger minutes.
The team started to look healthy around Christmas time, but with so many players returning, the new challenge was finding out which lines clicked well. With the lines changing frequently, the Ducks struggled to consistently win games. It was really touch and go, with John Gibson and Ryan Getzlaf basically dragging the team along whether they liked it or not.
The Ducks, in true fashion, rallied and played their best hockey at the end, as they’ve gone 8-1-1 in their last ten, and earned their spot in the playoff race. Even now injuries still play a role however. With Cam Fowler out, Marcus Pettersson and Adam Welenski were called to play more minutes and be a pivotal third pairing. And Ryan Miller once again displayed his ability to be an outstanding backup goaltender when asked upon.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Andrew Cogliano - scored the empty net goal to end the game. It would have been an icing call against the Ducks and put the Wild in good position to strike back, but Cogs used his speed to negate the icing and score the goal.
2. Ryan Miller - Ryan Miller has been as good a backup goaltender as you could ask for. He turned aside 26 of 27 shots and helped the Ducks get the win needed for playoffs.
1. Ondrej Kase - The man, the myth, the legend. Not only did he deliver the game winner, he also scored his 20th goal of the season for the first time in his career. Kase is a force to be reckoned with and it’s only more good things to come.
The Western Conference has only one remaining playoff spot available now, as the Kings also clinched playoffs last night. Colorado and St. Louis will be fighting for it, but the seeding is still up for grabs. As it stands, the Ducks could sit 2nd or 3rd in the Pacific, or sit 1st or 2nd in the wild card. Here are the scenarios:
- If the Ducks win one more game they can fall no lower than the 1st wild card spot.
- If the Ducks win both games, or the Kings lose one game and the Ducks win one game, the Ducks can get no lower than the 3rd spot in the Pacific.
- If the Ducks win both games and the Sharks lose one game, the Ducks will claim 2nd place in the Pacific
The Ducks will be be back in action Friday when they take on the Dallas Stars. Puck drops at 6pm PST.