Western Pacific Playoff Lookout

There is a race for the top spot in the Western Pacific conference between the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks.  Los Angeles has won 7 of their past 10 games, but they dropped two of those games to the division-contending Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim was recently shutout by the Colorado Avalanche in their current three game losing streak. Last, but still certainly in the race, San Jose is only a few points behind Anaheim for second in the division.

Anaheim has been up in the standings recently with key divisional wins against the Kings. They were atop the division until the first loss came. A team like this can get so comfortable about their pace of play and how well they are playing together and producing wins for the organization. Reality set in with the first of three loses. Spirits were probably high going into a game against one of the teams with the best records in the league, the Washington Capitals. The team went up early after a Ryan Getzlaf goal, carrying a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the first period and going scoreless in the second. The third period brought an early goal from Washington to tie it 1-1, forcing the game to overtime and a shootout. Nicklas Backstrom put one past John Gibson to put the game in the books. Although this game might not have been a big blow to the teams mentality, it was still a loss. On the other hand, it was an shootout loss to one of the best teams in the NHL that ended an 11 game win streak.

Adding insult to injury, Colorado put up three goals in shutout fashion on home ice to send the Ducks flying back to California. This loss ended a 14 game point streak. It seemed as if there was a force field in Colorado’s net that night. The Ducks were getting great chances to score, but some good saves, even better defense by Colorado, and a little luck didn’t allow them to score. By now the team had to have been frustrated with how things were going and quite possibly could be thinking things couldn’t get any worse. Until disaster struck. A couple key defensive zone give aways gave St. Louis opportunity to score often as they put 5 in the net and handed Anaheim their third straight loss.

This isn’t the end all be all for the Ducks heading forward. They do have 15 games left to tighten any loose bolts before they reach playoff hockey. They should be able to string some more wins together to stay second in their division behind the Kings and make a run for the Cup.

Although Los Angeles weren’t able to pick up wins against Anaheim, they are still sitting atop the division by two points as of today. In their most recent win, LA went up 3-0 against a leagues best, Washington Capitals. But, the game didn’t end this way. Three unanswered goals including one that came late in the third by Orlov, tied the game at the end of regulation forcing overtime. Just under three minutes into the overtime period, Jeff carter put one behind Brandon Holtby to win the game. This potentially awful game turned out in the Kings favor. They can’t be relying on these types of wins if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. Other teams will look to get better with less than 20 games left in the regular season, and scrappy wins like this will not come easy later on.

San Jose is now only one point out of second place in the standings. They grabbed two points last night after defeating a hefty Washington team who seems to not be able to put up good wins against the California teams. In this case, the Sharks pulled out some third period heroics with three goals to end the game.

Again, the season definitely is not over, so look for these three teams to keep going at it and mix up the seedings a little bit. Anyone could end up at the top. Im favoring the LA Kings because their line with Milan Lucic, Jeff Carter, and Anze Kopitar to start the game has recently been running on all cylinders and are hard to keep from scoring. This this scoring and a veteran Jonathan Quick in net, they are set up to go deep in the hunt for the Cup.



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