Mercifully, the Ducks and Kings played their final matchup of the season Friday.
Neither team is headed to the postseason, and parts of the game showed why. The Kings suffered familiar breakdowns and perhaps even took a step back from the pride they showed in Tuesday’s win in Arizona over the Coyotes.
The Ducks allowed the first goal and took some comic missteps with Jacob Larsson whiffing on a shot and Adam Henrique colliding with Devin Shore. But they walked into an early spring with a 5-2 win at Honda Center that reeked of good riddance for two local seasons turned bad.
Here’s what we learned:
Sam Steel and Max Jones sure look like the future of the Ducks. The stakes aren’t high in games that have about as much meaning as the preseason, but that doesn’t take away from what the rookies have shown recently.
Steel’s shorthanded goal gave him five goals in five games to finish the season as he grows into a center role. Jones displayed his power-forward prowess with a drive to the net and an assist to Korbinian Holzer, while recording his first multi-point game.
If Steel and Jones are part of the future leadership group in Anaheim, this is a good precursor.
“You never want to miss the playoffs, but when you do, at least you have the opportunity to bring some of the kids up and give them experience,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “Let them earn their stripes here. That way, in training camp, they know what to expect when they push for spots.”
On the Kings’ side, Michael Amadio has two goals and three assists in six games, and Carl Grundstrom is already a Ducks killer with goals in all three of his games against Anaheim.
It’s still Kings-Ducks. Emotions boiled over at the end in the form of misconduct penalties for Getzlaf, Nick Ritchie, Kyle Clifford and Adrian Kempe in last-minute dust-ups. It even turned ugly when Getzlaf was seen on replays throwing a punch to an unsuspecting Kempe in a scrum behind the net. Drew Doughty upended Rickard Rakell, among other edgy incidents.
“Regardless of wherever everyone is in the standings, you know it’s always going to be an emotional battle,” Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. “It’s always going to be in a revved up environment. That’s what it was tonight.”
Neither team has helped their draft lottery chances. The Ducks went 11-5-1 in their final 17 games to finish with 80 points, better than seven other teams. The Kings’ win Tuesday ensured they cannot finish last for an 18.5% chance of landing the No.1 pick in the draft, and even second-to-last place (13.5%) is in jeopardy if they win Saturday and the New Jersey Devils lose.
But both teams have ping-pong balls in the mix for Tuesday’s drawing, and anything can happen, right?