Ducks a Qualified Success
If the Angels could defeat the odds and win a championship, why not the Mighty Ducks?
Anaheim took the first step by qualifying for the NHL playoffs with a 5-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night in front of an announced crowd of 15,507 at the Arrowhead Pond.
“It feels good to know that we have the spot in the playoffs and it’s ours and no one can take it away from us,” goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “We should all feel good about that. We’ve worked really hard all year for this.”
Although the Ducks technically earned a postseason berth before the start of the second period, thanks to Phoenix’s 2-0 loss to Calgary, they made sure that they didn’t back into the playoffs with a dominating effort over the lowly Blue Jackets.
Giguere was solid again with 29 saves for his franchise-record eighth shutout of the season.
Rob Niedermayer scored twice and Mike Leclerc, Petr Sykora and Steve Thomas each scored goals for the Ducks, who extended their points streak to five consecutive games and improved to 8-2-1-1 over their last 12 games.
The Ducks are 12 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history, and their 38 wins are also a franchise best.
“The attitude and feeling around here is so much more positive and as a player, that’s all you can ask,” defenseman Keith Carney said. “For an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs the last few years, to get there is a major accomplishment. We know that the playoffs are a new season and we’re excited.
“But we don’t want to just get in the playoffs and be satisfied with that. We want to make things happen. We want to continue to push our game to get better, so when the puck drops to start the playoffs, we’re playing our best hockey.”
The Ducks, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and the third time in franchise history, didn’t exactly have a bubbly celebration following their victory over Columbus, but there was no shortage of happy faces in their locker room.
“We felt that we’ll be in the playoffs for a long time now,” first-year Coach Mike Babcock said. “I told the guys at the start that if we hang in there for the first 20 [games of the season], then we’ll be OK. That’s what we’ve done.”
Even for players such as defenseman Niclas Havelid, who will be making his first playoff appearance in four seasons.
“Whatever league you play in, you want to make the playoffs,” said Havelid, who reached the playoffs in the Swedish League before joining the NHL. “Every team in the playoffs has a chance and that’s a great feeling.”
Columbus, which has lost 13 of its last 14 road games, never had a chance.
Leclerc got things flowing early with a goal 22 seconds into the opening period to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. It matched the fourth-fastest goal scored by a Duck to start a game and marked the first time Anaheim scored first in six games.
In a loosely played second period, the Ducks blew the game open with three goals, one with a man advantage.
Sykora scored his team-leading 33rd goal at 7:09 on a power play with Adam Oates picking up an assist to move past Jari Kurri on the all-time NHL points list with 1,399.
Niedermayer put the Ducks ahead by three goals with his first score at 12:55 and his former Chicago teammate, Thomas, finished the scoring for the period with a goal at 15:00 to give the Ducks a 4-0 lead and chase Columbus goaltender Marc Denis, who was replaced by Jean-Francois Labbe.
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Best in the West
Playoff seedings if season ended Monday. Teams play 82 games. The first seven teams have clinched playoff spots. When playoffs begin, Team 1 will play Team 8, Team 2 will play Team 7, etc.
*--* Team Games Points 1. DETROIT 75 100 2. DALLAS 76 100 3. VANCOUVER 76 99 4. COLORADO 75 94 5. ST. LOUIS 75 93 6. MIGHTY DUCKS 78 90 7. MINNESOTA 75 89 8. EDMONTON 76 85