The Anaheim Ducks put the finishing touches on a clean sweep of the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday night, capping off an incredibly entertaining series with yet another come from behind win. The Ducks established themselves throughout the series as a team that simply would not be denied while trailing on the scoreboard.
Much was made going into the series of the Jets superiority at tied-score possession. In the eyes of some, that advantage for Winnipeg would lead to a long and hard fought series. Unfortunately for the Jets faithful, that statistical advantage never translated into a single win.
Anaheim trailed going into the third period in three of the four games, and was able to roar back offensively on each occasion. For those that have followed the Ducks all year, especially in their last 25 games, this should come as no surprise. Anaheim was one of the league’s very best possession-wise while trailing.
With the Jets now in the rear-view mirror, the Ducks turn their attention to two other Canadian squads, the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. The Flames currently lead the series three to one, which at this point shouldn’t be a surprise. All Calgary has done this year is shock the world.
Ducks Road (Not-So) Fraught With Peril
Regardless of who the Ducks play in the second round, whether it be the Flames or the Canucks, their championship window, or at least the window to the Western Conference Final, just became wide open. Neither team presents much of a challenge on paper for Bruce Boudreau’s men.
The Flames have been frisky when facing Anaheim throughout the year, as have the Canucks. Neither club boasts nearly the talent level that the Jets possessed, and it’s debatable whether that’s even saying much for Winnipeg considering they got swept.
Abysmal goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec (should we just call that normal goaltending for him?) was what really did the Jets in, as they were never able to get that momentum-spurring save that they so desperately needed. In a Calgary series, goaltending could prove to be a problem for Anaheim.
Jonas Hiller has stood out against the Canucks, much like he has in previous post-seasons, chalking up an impressive .938 save percentage, which might be just a hair better than the .891 the Ducks saw from Pavelec.
Calgary has also made a habit of getting badly out-chanced and out-shot throughout the year, a trend that has continued into the playoffs. With some excellent goaltending and opportunistic scoring, they’ve been able to parlay that glaring weakness into team success.
Simply put, the Flames are not afraid of anyone, since they can essentially play absolutely terrible hockey and come out victorious more often than not. The Ducks cannot afford to give them any hope, and will have to go for the jugular as soon as the puck drops on a potential series. The same can be said for a series against the Canucks, who don’t exactly play dominant hockey either.
The Stanley Cup Window
In both eventualities though, Anaheim will be facing an opponent much weaker than the one they just smoked. Another sweep is a real possibility, and the Ducks could be undefeated once the puck drops on the Conference Final.
If there was ever a year where the stars aligned for the Anaheim faithful, 2015 might be it. Whoever the Ducks would face in round three would be battered and bruised from surviving the Central Division gauntlet. Should they then advance to the Final, they’d once again be up against an Eastern team that they would at the very least be on par with.
Call it luck, call it chance, but the pieces are falling into place for the Ducks this year, and what better way to start off that chain of events than with a sweep? Without their usual foes in San Jose or Los Angeles to worry about, a proverbial Moses has parted a proverbial Red Sea for Anaheim, leaving them in total control of their own destiny.