A week ago the Ducks had lost two in a row on the road, Ryan Getzlaf reinjured his ankle and the team decided to throw in the towel in the playoff race. Rather than continue to push for what seemed impossible, the Ducks took a look at some young players with a view to the future.
Since that time, they have won all three games, including two on the road, and have bounced back from 11 points out of a playoff spot to 7 points out of a playoff spot.
Is it likely the Ducks will squeak into the playoffs with six games left to play? A defeat to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night would have all but eliminated the team. Instead, the Ducks had a decisive 5-2 victory over the slumping Avalanche and that glimmer of hope still exists. A teeny tiny glimmer, but a glimmer nonetheless.
Getting it done against the Avalanche was a team effort, but the line of Jason Blake, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu were the ones on the scoresheet.
Blake figured into every Ducks goal with one goal and four assists and a +5 on the evening. Koivu had a goal and three assists and was +4. Selanne got goal #601 to tie him with Jari Kurri, as well as another assist and was also +5.
It appeared that the Avalanche scored first, early in the game, but Cody McLeod’s stick was deemed higher than the crossbar and therefore the goal was waved off after a review.
So Steve Eminger got the party started at 15:40 of the first period. Craig Anderson, who was not as sharp as he has been all season for Colorado, misplayed the puck. Blake intercepted it, got it to Koivu and Eminger finished it off.
The Ducks took advantage of another turnover late in the period with Koivu scoring at 19:56. Taking a 2-0 lead into the intermission was far better than a 1-0 lead and the Avs never could recover.
Milan Hejduk got the Avs on the board at 13:22 of the second period with a power play goal. Curtis McElhinney, getting his third consecutive start, had no chance on the shot.
The Avs remained hopeful of getting back in the game until Scott Niedermayer had a tight angle shot that seemed to literally go through two people to make it into the net behind Anderson at 19:30.
Colorado refused to die and came out shooting in the third period. Another turnover cost them. The odd man rush down the other end resulted in Selanne’s 601st goal, 22nd of the year, at 2:34. Blake extended the lead further at 12:02 and his five points ties a club record for most points in a game.
Darcy Tucker made it 5-2 at 13:26, but that was it for the Avs. They have now lost six of the past seven games, stalled in the standings. For a team that was predicted to be last in the Western Conference, they have been the little engine that could, defying the odds and staying consistent all season. Until now.
However, the Avs misfortune could be to the Ducks benefit. There is another team, the Kings, also struggling a bit as the regular season comes to a close. The Ducks play them twice more before the season is done and those points could be huge.
Next up is the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. The Canucks play the Kings on Thursday night, and a win for Vancouver would seal up a playoff spot for them. It would also continue to put the Kings in a precarious position.
The Ducks can only control what they do, but the next three games could very well determine if the glimmer of hope is real or only fool’s gold.