Defeat, it is just as much a part of competition as winning is. In every contest, one person or team will come away victorious while another is branded the loser.
In an 82-game long hockey season, every team in the National Hockey League gets the opportunity to experience the feeling of defeat on more than one occasion. If you are a team in contention for the postseason, you hope to limit those occurrences and win more frequently.
After a sub-par at best start to the 2015-16 season, the Ducks find themselves in a quite challenging circumstance. Although losing is a reality in the NHL, Anaheim simply cannot afford to do so.
A Tightly Contested Pacific
With 39 points and a 16-16-7 record, the Ducks currently find themselves sitting in 5th place in the Pacific Division behind the likes of Calgary, Vancouver, Arizona and Los Angeles. Luckily for them, only two points separate Anaheim from playoff positioning. However, the same can be said about the distance apart they are from sitting at the very bottom of the division.
Although the Kings have first place pretty well secured, ten points ahead of the second place Coyotes, the other two playoff spots are very much up for grabs. Obtaining one of those two spots is the only way a team from the Pacific is getting into the playoffs because the Central Division is far superior. There is no doubt that the two wild card teams in the Western Conference will come from the Central (my bets are on Nashville and Minnesota).
The Pacific may be the weakest division but it is still by far the most closely contested. For this reason, every game the Ducks play from here on out should be treated like a playoff game. Every win assists Anaheim in climbing up the standings while hopefully causing separation from the pack. Separation will still occur if the Ducks go on a losing streak but they will be heading more towards the draft lottery than the playoffs.
Not counting Wednesday night’s 4-0 shellacking at the hands of the 7th place Maple Leafs, the Ducks look like a different team since the holiday break. Since December 27th Anaheim is an impressive 4-1-1 , acquiring nine of the possible twelve points. They are 1-1-0 in their current home stand with six more games to play. It may sound like a slightly ridiculous goal but the Ducks can only be truly pleased if they win all six. It will not be a simple task to complete facing teams such as St. Louis, Detroit, Ottawa, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Minnesota. If the team is going to lose, they better do it in overtime so at least one point is obtained. Coming out of games with no points to show for it can prove to be detrimental to the Ducks.
No Catching the Kings
Before the start of the season many predicted the Duck as not only the best team in the Pacific, but Stanley Cup contenders as well. To this point the best team in the Pacific is the Los Angeles Kings and I would be completely at a loss for words if they did not win the division. As I mentioned, their 54 points is ten points ahead of the next best team.
Although I am a firm believer that the Ducks can make some serious noise in the postseason if they are able to get in, it would be crazy to claim that this team can catch up to their rival and win the Pacific Division. Anaheim should have its sights set on second place. They are currently only five points away from Arizona, and are still a far superior team. In all honesty the Ducks are better than every other team in the division but have been unable to demonstrate it with any consistency.
No Room For Mistakes
To say that the Anaheim Ducks cannot afford to lose another game from here on in would be asking for the impossible to happen. However, this team cannot afford to fall into a slump. One big losing streak could put Anaheim in a rough spot especially if one or more teams in their Division can put together a decent-sized winning streak. If the Ducks are going to make the postseason, they must be done with this “Jekyll and Hyde” act, and play like the dominant team everyone knows they can be night-in and night-out.
John Gove is an elementary school educator who writes about hockey in his spare team. Over the past five years, John has covered the game at various levels. Now, he exclusively focuses his coverage on prospects and the developmental leagues.