Eric Roberts The Hockey Writers
Kings and Ducks Save Best for Last
When the NHL schedule is composed it is impossible for those piecing it together to know what they have done until the season plays out. When it comes to the final games of the season, it’s a shot in the dark hoping for as many games with playoff implications as possible. That being said, the schedule makers hit the bullseye for the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, whose last meeting of the 2015-16 regular season will be their biggest meeting.
Going into Thursday night’s game between the Southern California rivals, Los Angeles and Anaheim sit atop the Pacific Division tied with 99 points. Outside of the game between the Ducks and the Kings, Los Angeles has one game remaining and Anaheim has two, which heightens the significance of a possible four-point swing in the winning team’s favor.
Kings Take The First Meeting
The NHL made the Kings and Ducks wait before they got the latest chapter of their rivalry underway. The first meeting between Los Angeles and Anaheim took place on Jan. 17, which was 43 games into the season for both teams.
As the puck dropped on the first meeting, the Kings held a 12-point lead over the Ducks in the Pacific Division. By the end of the night, Los Angeles rode a 30-save performance by Jonathan Quick and a two-point night by Anze Kopitar to a 3-2 win over the Ducks.
Thanks to the win, the Kings stretched their point total to 59 while the Ducks stayed idle at 45.
Los Angeles Stumbles While Anaheim Flies High
Since their first meeting of the season, the two Southern California teams have been on opposite tracks.
Los Angeles has gone a respectable 19-15-2 in their 36 games since first playing the Ducks. However, Anaheim who has put together a 25-6-4 record since the Kings beat them in their first meeting of the season, has rocketed up the standings and erased the 14-point gap that once separated the two teams.
Sprinkled in the schedule since the Kings and Ducks first met this season has been three other meeting between Los Angeles and Anaheim, two games at Staples Center and one at Honda Center. The Ducks swept the board in these three games, winning a pair of games by a 4-2 score, and the most recent meeting by a 3-2 score.
The big thing to take away from the previous three games between the Kings and the Ducks is the fact that all three were decided in regulation. Which kept the game out of extra time and a loser point off the table. This put a 12-point swing over three games in favor of the Ducks, who grabbed six points in the standings and kept six points aways from the Los Angeles.
How the Division Will Be Decided
If the Kings win the next meeting they will want to take a page out of Anaheim’s book, and keep their next meeting in regulation.
For the Kings, a two-point gap between themselves and the Ducks going into the final game of the season would put them in the driver’s seat in the Pacific Division. A win against the Ducks and a win in their final game against the Jets would give the Kings 103 points at season’s end. A 103 total would give the Kings the Pacific Division.
If the Ducks lose to the Kings, the Ducks would also have a total points possible of 103. If the season does play out like this and the Ducks and Kings both finish with 103 points the Kings would win the division because they have more wins in regulation or overtime (ROW), the first tie-breaker.
The Ducks can not overtake the Kings in the ROW category because the Kings have 45 and the Ducks have 41 with only three games remaining. Advantage, Kings.
The fate of the Pacific Division rides on the outcome of the next, and final meeting, between the Ducks and Kings. The winner will be in the fast lane for the division title while the loser will have to play catch up and scoreboard watch.
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