Will the Anaheim Ducks Pass the LA Kings?
With the SoCal rivals now tied atop the Pacific, it almost seems inevitable that the Ducks reclaim their throne atop the division.
If you haven't been paying attention, the Anaheim Ducks are an astonishing 25-2-2 since Christmas. After playing the Montreal Canadiens last night and winning in a shootout, they are now tied in points with the Los Angeles Kings.
Obviously that means it's time to panic. The Kings could be losing their hold on the division title!
Let's rewind a minute and figure out how we got to this moment of dread.
Shortly before New Year's Day, the Ducks' luck started changing and pucks started going in the net for Anaheim. Up until then, they'd had a hilariously low team shooting percentage and an even more hilariously low PDO. Much-maligned team captain Ryan Getzlaf only had one goal (an empty-net one at that) and none at even-strength. But following the Christmas break, the tide started to turn for our neighbors to the south. Getzlaf is all the way up to nine goals (in all situations) and has seen his one-point-something sh% slowly climb out the basement along with the rest of his teammates.
Evidently deciding that a multi-point lead on the rest of the division was too much for them, the Kings had a bit of a rough ending to January, going 3-4-0 from January 16 on, dropping games against noted contenders Colorado, Arizona and Ottawa. February wasn't great for LA, either, as they were 3-3-1 on the Grammys road trip, though they did manage to squeak out narrow victories over the Flames, Oilers and Sabres for a 7-5-1 month (better than in past years, so at least there's that).
The Ducks, meanwhile, had a near perfect month, losing only once in regulation and once to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the
With their division matchup on February 28 decided in regulation following a third period collapse/rally, Anaheim moved to within two points of the Kings and tied LA after their victory last night. However, by virtue of the LA's excellent overtime record this season, the Ducks don't own the ROW tiebreaker (they aren't that far behind, though).
So what does this all mean? Does it mean that the Ducks have finally surpassed the Kings? Well, technically, no. Even tied in points, the Kings are still ahead of their rivals in the standings thanks to the tiebreaker.
Despite all the pundits and media members remarking over how incredible it is that the Ducks are "suddenly" good again, LA still has a chance to pull off the narrowest of victories for the division title with 20 games left and half of them against "good" (or possible playoff) teams. Anaheim has a similarly difficult schedule with 10 games against playoff and bubble teams.
But, so what if the Ducks pass the Kings in the standings? Aside from narrative drivers and the pride of a few fans, no one really cares and Darryl Sutter famously called division titles "dirty banners." They are easily the best Corsi team in the NHL, are comfortably in a playoff spot, and are the second best defensive team in the league. The only team that generates more shot attempts for is Dallas and the only team that suppresses more shots is the Devils. In score-adjusted situations, the Kings are even better and are first in both categories. By comparison, the Ducks are third in SACF% and somewhat distant third in CA60.
Even if LA drops to second - or, heaven forbid, third (should the Sharks somehow pass them) - they would play San Jose while Anaheim gets the Central Division wild card (currently the Minnesota Wild, though the Avalanche are lapping at their heels). If LA manages to hang on to the division, then they'd get the Wild or Avs and that would probably be easier than getting the Sharks.
Dean Lombardi would like to see his team succeed and clinch the division title. He said as much in his post-trade deadline conference call. It's a point of pride and the guys should want to win the division. However, if they don't and they still make the playoffs (which they should be able to do at this point in the season), it's not the end of the world.
Ease off the panic button, friends, all is well with the Kings.