Things looked pretty precarious at the beginning of the season, but somehow everything fell into place for the Ducks. By defeating the Kings, 3-1, in their final game of the year, the Ducks clinched home ice with fourth place in the Western Conference.
“I don’t think anybody picked us to have home ice advantage at any point,” said coach Randy Carlyle. “But it’s funny the way things fall into your lap when you win your fair share of games. That’s back to our players. They worked extremely hard and stayed committed, and they’ve earned this.”
Rather than letting someone else determine their fate, the Ducks were able to pull off a sweep of the final two games against LA, and Anaheim gave themselves their best chance possible. Corey Perry did not score, but earned an assist on Saku Koivu’s game winning goal. Perry ended up with 50 goals and 98 points – good enough for the Maurice Richard trophy, but a few shy of the Art Ross.
Brandon McMillan put the Ducks on the board in the first period and Francois Beauchemin sealed things with a power play goal in the second. The Kings had their chances all evening, but only Ryan Smyth’s goal was able to get behind Dan Ellis.
Ellis, who had not started since March 20, got back to back nods when Ray Emery went down to a lower body injury. While only having to make 23 saves the night before, Ellis had to stop 43 shots on Saturday.
“They really brought it tonight,” said Ellis about the Kings effort. “It wasn’t that the initial shot was dangerous but they had lots of traffic. They’re always in front of the net and make it difficult to see. You’ve just got to try to look around them and make a good block and hope it hits you.”
Ellis may very well be in net when the first round of the playoffs begins on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators, his former team. Emery is still an unknown and Jonas Hiller remains iffy with vertigo.
Fortunately for the Ducks, they have had good goaltending when they have needed it most, regardless of who is in net. That should help against the Predators, who are formidable in net with Pekke Rinne looming large between the pipes.
The Ducks have been in a playoff state of mind for the past few months, just trying to make it to the playoffs, much less have home ice advantage. Nothing will change heading forward.
Teemu Selanne, if it truly is his last season (sort of like 50 farewell tours for bands that never quite hang it up), gets one more crack at the post season. He already has a Stanley Cup, but one more would be a nice way to go out. Then again, the 40 year old still has plenty of life in him and if he does not win the Stanley Cup a second time, he might be more tempted to go just one more year.
Besides, the Ducks open next season in Helsinki, Finland, and play a pre-season game against Selanne’s many years former team, Jokerit. What’s not to like about that? It will certainly help entice the Finnish Flash to play a few more games and keep climbing up the all-time charts.
But that is looking too far ahead. For now, the Ducks have only Nashville to consider and prepare. Playoffs. It doesn’t get better than this!