With less than five minutes left in the 2nd period at Honda Center Monday night, Anaheim Ducks fans threw pleas of goodwill skyward toward whatever grand hockey master allows for strokes of luck within a game of pure skill.
The 0-4 score favored the visiting Winnipeg Jets, the depressingly dismal shots on goal favored the Jets, and perhaps worst of all, the margin of Jets fans outnumbered the home team’s.
The later factor became the loss of every lifelong or bandwagon hockey fan who has ever claimed Honda Center as home when in less than 25 minutes of game time, the Ducks pulled off the greatest comeback in franchise history, beating Winnipeg 5-4 in overtime and proving once more they are the comeback kids of this NHL season.
Despite a high entertainment factor, what does last night’s game mean for the Ducks’ playoff hopes? A lot, actually — and it isn’t all positive.
Knowing Anaheim has the mental stamina to press the reset button two thirds of the way through a game, being down three goals and 20 shots to rally back playing a Stanley Cup favored style of hockey is certainly a strong takeaway from the Ducks’ show against Winnipeg. While some teams only become increasingly discouraged as opponents’ goal tally rises, Anaheim has spent an entire season proving themselves masters of the mental hockey game.
In addition, such a statistic proves that the Ducks can do in 20 minutes what it takes most teams a full 60 to complete; imagine the odds if they learned to play at a consistent level.
Unfortunately for postseason predictions, the Jets are not the team to adequately judge playoff ability against, and the reason might have something to do with what Winnipeg allowed to happen in last night’s 3rd period.
Outside of the possible matchup against a wild card team (if Anaheim can secure the top spot in the Pacific Division), the stakes rise even higher for the Ducks and their lackadaisical starts as they look to potentially face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs.
The Kings are a defensively stellar team; if they have outscored you by four goals in the first 40 minutes of a game, they win the game. Despite Anaheim’s ability, such a matchup looks to favor the team in black and white.
Anaheim’s inability to play a full 60 minutes is the Achilles’ heel in their record breaking season. Such a setback hasn’t been much of an issue to weather thus far, but if the Ducks can’t bring their lights out talent and pace into games during the first 20 minutes, that heel might end up costing Anaheim their entire season.