With 12 games left to play in the 2015-16 regular season, the Anaheim Ducks are pretty much a lock to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight year. Anaheim currently sits in second place in the Pacific Divison behind the Los Angeles Kings with a 39-22-9 record.
Although the Ducks making the postseason is as close to a certainty without it actually being one, who their first round opponent will be is still up in the air. Three teams fit the bill for possible opponents Anaheim will go up against in the first round.
Let’s take a look at each team, starting with the most likely opponent and ending with the team the Ducks will least likely play in round one.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are also a lock to represent the Pacific Division in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose currently finds themselves in third but is only one point behind Anaheim. In all reality, there is a small chance of either these teams passing the first place Kings which almost guarantees that they will be playing each other in round number one of the postseason.
This battle of California would prove to be both a competitive and entertaining first round matchup. The Ducks and Sharks have built their success this season in two completely different ways. Anaheim has had to rely on strong defensive play, becoming one of the best in the league in this aspect of the game. On the other hand, San Jose showcases one of the best offenses in the NHL ranking fourth in goals-per-game with 2.91.
Anaheim has won the season series with the Sharks three to one, winning both games at home. Although the Ducks would love to finish the season ahead of San Jose in the Pacific Division standings to secure a home-ice advantage, it would not be terrible if they were unable to do so. Surprisingly, the Sharks are a better team on the road this season, winning only 15 games at the SAP Center.
The Predators have a strong hold on the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 85 points and would take on the Ducks if Anaheim could somehow take first place in the Pacific Division away from Los Angeles. Anaheim currently sits six points behind the Kings with 12 games to play.
Nashville is a strong all-around team, ranking in the middle of the pack in almost all major statistics. Similar to the Sharks, the Predators are a better offensive team ranking 13th in the league in goals-per-game, while the Ducks are the better defensive squad. However, going up against a hot Pekka Rinne could prove to be detrimental for Anaheim.
The Predators won two of the three games they played against the Ducks this season, coming out victorious in both games in Nashville. Anaheim would have home-ice advantage if these two teams faced each other in round one.
Los Angeles Kings
Although an Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings first round matchup would be phenomenal, it is highly unlikely. If the Ducks and Kings were to play each other in round one, that would mean that the Sharks wound up in first place in the Pacific Division.
As of today, seven points separate San Jose from the first place Kings. Although passing them is not out of the question, the chances of it happening are pretty slim. The Sharks would have to get hot and hope that both Anaheim and Los Angeles cooled down substantially. Considering that the Kings are only two points behind the best team in the west, Dallas Stars, you can count on Los Angeles giving it everything they’ve got until their positioning is secure.
The Ducks and Kings will most likely have to wait till further on in the postseason to play one another. However, there is no question that this would be one of the more exciting playoff matchups to watch.
Whoever the Anaheim Ducks end up playing in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is not going to be a walk in the park. The team is going to lay everything out on the line and hope it’s enough to continue their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup.