The Ducks played like they wanted to finish second in defeating the Arizona Coyotes 3-0 on Saturday night.
And they did, gaining home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs as their reward, with a matchup against the San Jose Sharks. The Ducks played a solid game on Saturday against the Coyotes, who had a strong finish to their season.
“We knew there was still stuff on the line and we needed to play our game,” said center Adam Henrique, whose acquisition from New Jersey on Nov. 30 kept the Ducks going when injuries depleted them up the middle. “I think we did a great job doing that tonight.”
Goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 31 shots for his fourth shutout this season and 43rd of his career.
Here’s what we learned:
The Ducks did themselves a favor by avoiding Nashville
The Ducks were eliminated by the Predators in each of the last two playoffs, falling in the conference final last year and in the first round in 2016, and this season’s Predators are better than last season’s Stanley Cup runner-up version. Getting home-ice advantage could be crucial for the Ducks, who won their last seven games at Honda Center and were 14-1-2 in their last 17 home games. The winner of the Ducks-Sharks series will face the winner of the Vegas-Kings series, creating the potential for another Kings-Ducks series. Their first encounter, in a second-round series in 2014, was stellar. But first, the Sharks will present a formidable challenge for the Ducks.
“They’re a skating, well-coached hockey club. Lots of balance,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “They’re not a flashy team by any means, but they’ve got a lot of depth through their lineup. They play a high-tempo game, and they’re a good hockey club.”
Miller saves pucks and saves the day for the Ducks
With John Gibson out of the lineup because of an upper-body injury, Miller had to appear in four consecutive games including back-to-back games against Dallas and Arizona on Friday and Saturday. He was credited with the win in all four, and all of them had playoff implications. Gibson has been unable to shake the knock of being injury-prone, but Miller has stepped in more than capably.
“Tonight, just another statement by Ryan Miller that he’s here to play and he’s here to compete,” Carlyle said. “The excitement of the playoffs for him, I think has surprised people. … There’s a comfort zone that we’ve got two people that can step in and make a contribution to our lineup. Again, we look at it that we’re a team that has to utilize all of its players, and the strengths of the individuals that we have, our goaltenders have been 1A and 1B all year, for sure.”
Miller, 37, said he was just trying to capitalize on every chance to contribute.
“This last stretch of hockey is very important and it didn’t look like I would be playing a role in that for a little while,” he said. “Just the way things work out, I’m going to have to play a role and I’m happy to contribute and do my job. If I need to keep going, we’ll see what happens and go from there.”
He entered Saturday’s game tied with Tom Barrasso for second on the all-time wins list among American-born goalies and now stands alone in second, with 370, four behind John Vanbiesbrouck. It was significant for Miller, who recalled watching Barrasso and Vanbiesbrouck, but he was looking more at the Ducks’ future than at his own.
“I’m just happy to be still playing meaningful hockey and getting some wins, and that’s the thing that means the most,” he said.