The Anaheim Ducks could have clinched a playoff spot for themselves and the Los Angeles Kings tonight, by beating the Stars and gaining those four points needed to secure their position. Much to the disappointment of their fans (though a sellout wasn’t announced, there were more fans in Honda Center than I’ve seen there in quite a while, so actual attendance seemed to be up), the Ducks did not come away from tonight’s game with a win against the even more desperate Dallas Stars.
The Stars and Ducks had both lost last night (the Stars to the Kings in LA, the Ducks to the Sharks in San Jose). Since Calgary won tonight, the Stars didn’t improve their standings by beating the Ducks tonight in Anaheim. They do have two games in hand on the Flames, though. Chicago did lose in regulation, potentially hoping the Stars or the Flames.
The Kings need two more points on the Stars – either by them gaining points (with one win or two overtime losses in the next four games) or by the Stars losing a single game in regulation or two games in overtime. The Ducks are in a similar position, but need four points, since they lost to the Stars and still need the four points they needed going into tonight’s game. Four points in 3 games doesn’t sound like a lot, but the Ducks have no easy games in their last three. They face the San Jose Sharks at home Wednesday, host the Kings Friday, and play the Kings in LA for their final regular season game. The Kings are just as desperate for points to improve their playoff standing (they would certainly rather face the Predators or Coyotes than the Canucks or Red Wings in the first round. The Canucks are much better than they were when the Kings faced them last year in the playoffs and that ended in the Kings being beaten in 6 games. Definitely not the end they’d like for the playoffs this year. Without Anze Kopitar, the Kings’ road is already more difficult than it would have been without his injuries. They don’t need the added pressure of facing one of the best playoff teams in history (the Red Wings) or the Presidents’ Trophy winner (the Canucks).
As anyone who watched the game in Anaheim tonight knows, there were a couple of disputed no goal calls against the Ducks at the end of the game. Personally, after watching replays at Honda Center and at home in HD, I believe the refs made the right call in both cases and would like to commend them for doing such a good job with them. (I’d like to point out that the Ducks’ own broadcast team agrees with me on both of these calls, which surprised me from what I’ve heard them say in the past.) Referees are often booed and blamed when a team is performing poorly (taking stupid penalties, icing the puck, etc.), but they rarely get the credit they deserve for making so many calls correctly. Everyone points out the one or two calls they may have missed in a game rather than looking at the dozens they got right in that same game. Most of us are more likely to complain than compliment service at a store or restaurant, so I’m not saying the behavior of fans is unusual… I’m just trying to point out that the referees have a very difficult job and skate for over 60 minutes in a game, which is triple the average ice time of a player. If you’re a Ducks fan and didn’t get to watch the game on TV (I record every game I attend in case there are questionable calls I’d like to review in HD later), try to record or watch the replay. I think you’ll see that the calls were made well, though you’ll still be upset with them. I don’t believe the puck Perry touched with his hand touched his skate and it definitely didn’t hit his stick. I’m sure he intended to pass it to himself, but he didn’t and that’s a very clear rule. When asked about the goals, coach Randy Carlyle said it was clear Lehtonen had been skated into in the crease and it’s not clear if Corey Perry hit the puck with his skate or not, but if he didn’t then it’s a hand pass and a good call. (With calls like that, you can’t really argue strongly against any call made on the ice.) Carlyle went on to explain that “obviously we don’t feel very good about the calls that went against us, but … I don’t know if we were worthy of it… to get that goal at that point.” Carlyle explained that they made some mental mistakes – not from lack of effort, but they were mistakes that led to the Stars’ goals and the loss.
Fans should think about placing blame where it’s due and being upset with their team for not making the close calls irrelevant. If the coach of your favorite team isn’t upset enough that he can’t discuss the situation (for fear of fines by the NHL or getting so upset that he’ll say something he shouldn’t), I’d argue that it’s time to stop being a homer and look at the goals in question. I’m sure they’re already on YouTube if you can’t catch a replay. On the bright side, it was really nice to see the Ducks fans passionate enough about their team to boo so loudly. I don’t think I’ve heard cheering that loud in Anaheim since they won the Stanley Cup Finals at home in 2007. The booing was almost deafening. It was like being at a concert, it was so loud. I loved seeing the crowd so involved and staying to the end of the game. Most of the fans in attendance tonight left together at the end of regulation. Normally, whether the Ducks are ahead or behind, a lot of fans leave early. The earlier start Sundays certainly helps those with children not have to leave early to get their children in bed for school, but many without kids leave games early, too. It’s something I’ll never understand, but it was great to see the Ducks fans stay until the end for such an important game at the end of the regular season. Fans are still only guaranteed two more games in Honda Center this April. Hopefully, the arena will be packed as they face the Sharks Wednesday and Kings Friday. The playoff race is tighter than I can remember it this late in the season, which should help bring in the fans.
Will this be the first year all three California teams make the playoffs the same year? We won’t know the answer to that for a couple days (at the earliest), but the Kings have another opportunity to clinch their playoff spot tomorrow in San Jose as they face the Sharks in the Shark Tank.