Tonight’s embarrassing loss by the Kings in front of their fans in their home closer at Staples Center probably means they dropped from 4th place (where they started last night’s game in Anaheim) to 8th place in a little over 24 hours. The Kings are currently in 7th place, but as long as the Blackhawks get a point in tomorrow’s home and season closer against the Red Wings, the Kings will finish in 8th. The Ducks weren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot until they beat the Kings last night in Anaheim and now they’ve moved from just barely making it into the 8th and final playoff spot to clinching 4th place and home ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Ducks ended the season with one of the best records in their last 10 games to make sure they got into the playoffs and are now in a similar situation to their 2009 position where they’ve been playing playoff intensity hockey out of necessity in preparation for the playoffs and have been finding ways to win in spite of their number one goaltenders (Jonas Hiller) injury.
In contrast, the Kings have one of the worst records in their last 10 games and are just barely limping into the post season. They’ll probably face the #1 team in the NHL in the first round, since the Vancouver Canucks are clinched the President’s Trophy a while ago and are in the western conference. Randy Carlyle talked about how far the Ducks have come from where they were a couple months ago in spite of the challenges they’ve faced since then. He credits the players for solidifying their group and said they’d earned this position. Carlyle laughed as he said, “I don’t think anyone picked us to be with home ice advantage at any point, but it’s funny the way things fall in your lap if you continue to win your fair share of games.”
With under 3 ½ minutes to go almost everyone on the ice ended up fighting each other. Not surprisingly, there was no third man in penalty. It was most surprising to see Teemu Selanne (generally mild mannered and the oldest player on either team) face off against Brad Richardson. It started with shoving during a puck battle along the boards, but deteriorated fairly rapidly. For a bit, it seemed like goalies Jonathan Quick and Dan Ellis might get involved, but according to Ellis, they really just talked about how they had no desire to fight. He went on to say that he was so tired that “if he were to punch me, I’d be right down on the ice. I might have just laid right down anyway.” The fans who stayed in Staples Center for the end of the game got to see a bigger fight than in most NHL games and many fans enjoy the fighting aspect of hockey games, but the Ducks fans were definitely the only truly happy fans exiting Staples Center tonight.