Throughout the 2015-16 season the Anaheim Ducks have been vying for a wildcard playoff spot. It just did not seem likely that they could climb the standings enough to gain a playoff berth within their own division. Lately Anaheim has finally been coming into their own, and currently are second in the Pacific at 68 points (just two behind the first place Los Angeles Kings). If the Ducks can stay hot, they might very well clinch the division.
There are some caveats to this point, however, as Anaheim is not without current struggles. Various crucial players (including goaltending golden boy John Gibson) are having trouble staying healthy. Injuries are probably the main issue that could torpedo Anaheim’s win streaks. If any more keystone players get hurt (like Corey Perry) we may see an entirely different scenario come postseason. A lot of the Ducks’ success will hinge on keeping players healthy and not over-exerting key components of the team. The strength-and-conditioning unit will have to work overtime to make sure these guys stay in top form to handle the game’s inherent brutality.
Additionally the Anaheim front office has been very secretive about potential trades and contract extensions. Anaheim has already traded away solid players like Jiri Sekac and I am certain that Anaheim is not done with earth-shattering moves just yet. As we saw throughout this season, shaking up the team is not without dire consequences. The offseason rebuilding pretty much led to a floundering season as familiarity is helpful when it comes to functioning as a unit. With the rumor mill generating countless stories, including the potential trade of Frederik Andersen (which would be idiotic), Bob Murray more or less will be the reason Anaheim fails if he drops the ball in negotiations. The Ducks do not need another Carl Hagelin situation in which a promising (and expensive) player cannot produce results.
If Anaheim can navigate the aforementioned obstacles, however, they truly do have a shot at finishing first in the Pacific. The forwards are making their shots count and are able to function under pressure (most notably Ryan Getzlaf‘s overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks). Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen are both giving a powerful edge to the defensive unit at the moment, and if they continue Anaheim will continue to have massive win streaks.
After all the rollercoaster performances, it is now Anaheim’s game to lose. If they can stay in the same mode as they are now, the Pacific (and possibly more) will be theirs.