The Anaheim Ducks continued a very bad trend for Southern California in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoff by losing another game to the Nashville Predators Sunday, April 17. In four games, the top two of the three Pacific Division teams to qualify are winless.
The Los Angeles Kings have won two of the last four Stanley Cups and were expected to contend for another, but have lost both games at home to the San Jose Sharks in their Pacific Division semifinals series. The Ducks were picked by many to win the Western Conference before the 2015-16 NHL season and after early scoring struggles scored over 140 goals over the second half of the season.
Giving up only about 50 more than that all season to rank first defensively, Anaheim played well enough to wrest the regular-season Pacific Division title from Los Angeles in the final game. It is the fourth straight time the Honda Center will be able to raise that title banner.
The Sharks were the last team to win the Pacific Division four straight times (from 2007-08 through 2010-11). Much like them, the Ducks have been unable to get past the Western Conference finals.
At least the Kings have been here before. In fact, they were down 3-0 the last time either of these teams were in the Stanley Cup playoffs and became the fifth team in major professional sports to lose the first three and win the last four.
Only the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 and Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 were able to accomplish that feat after losing the first two at home. Then again, this series is still very much there for the taking as few teams in Stanley Cup-playoff history have been as vulnerable at home as San Jose (37 wins in its last 84 home games).
The other Pacific Division semifinals series is still up for grabs, too. Anaheim’s core did win the 2007 Stanley Cup and this team did get to within one win of beating the eventual-champion Chicago Blackhawks last May.
However, the Predators have the advantage in net in both games. Pekka Rinne raised his game after struggling in the first half of the 2015-16 NHL season. He held the Ducks to two goals on 29 shots in Friday’s game and duplicated the feat Sunday for a .931 save percentage while his counterpart John Gibson gave up three in both games—on 33 shots and 27 shots respectively to give him a .900 save percentage for the series.
Los Angeles may not be out of its series before losing a fourth time, but Anaheim cannot lose afford to lose its next game Tuesday. That is exactly what will happen if Rinne is not solved.