I get no traction cause I’m running on ice; taking me twice as long. I get no traction cause I’m running on; caught in the vice so strong. Running On Ice By: Billy Joel, The Bridge (1986)
Last night the Ducks were more desperate than the Kings. The home team had yet to clinch a playoff berth. The Kings, however, had achieved that goal on Wednesday night at Staples Center. With the Ducks victory, both teams have now guaranteed themselves a first-round appearance. This leaves the back-end of a home and home between the two rivals in odd territory. At quick glance, the final game of the season could easily be viewed as one where the goal is to avoid injury. However, look deeper and there is much more at stake.
Coach Terry Murray already made it clear that while not make or break for any team, he views home ice advantage as an important key to a team’s success in the playoffs. Tonight’s game versus the Ducks weighs heavily on the chances of both teams to secure that position in the Western Conference. With a win tonight either team could take over fourth place with a loss by both Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes. Both teams are in action tonight.
Wayne Simmonds who had the best scoring chance of the night, outside of Ryan Smyth’s only Kings goal, recognized that the Kings came out strong in the first period. However, he also noted that the team let up a bit after that and the Ducks, fighting for their second-season lives, took the game’s reins. Looking to tonight, he also believed in not just stepping back and looking past a needed last two points.
“It’s always good to go into the playoffs on a high note,” Simmonds explained. “Plus we want to get those two points and try to get home ice advantage, for the first round. I think that is really important. So we really want to bring our game <Saturday> night.”
Taking the burden of tonight’s improvement on the Kings shoulders, Simmonds said, ” that we have to be more prepared and more ready with a better showing tomorrow night.”
Ducks enforcer George Parros, who scrapped with Kevin Westgarth in the second period, concurred with Simmonds about tonight’s match-up. Going into tonight’s game coasting would cost the Ducks a vital opportunity come the playoffs.
“You can’t think like that or you open yourself up to injury. You gotta play all out.” Parros hopes, “to leap-frog <the Kings> in the standings, with a win.”
Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle complimented the response of his players not just in the third period last night but throughout the season to bring them into the playoffs.
“If you look at the month of March, we had twenty-two points and that really set us up for this opportunity. That’s why your best players are played to do what they do.” After reflecting on what Carlyle has asked from the team all season, he applied it to last night’s deciding game. ” I thought in the third period what we asked them to do is instead of accepting the way we were, we asked them to be 10 percent better. Its not the first time we’ve asked them to be 10 percent better… but when you get twenty guys pushing in the third period you find a way to score the goal.”
Like Carlyle’s comments on the Ducks best players responding to adversity. Simmonds turned his thoughts to one of the players that have been a mainstay for the Kings all year, Jonathan Quick.
“Quickie, arguably, is our best player every night, so I can’t really say enough about him. He’s won a lot of games for us this year. ”
As the NHL season comes to a close, the significance of all three California NHL teams making the playoffs can not be understated. For markets often lacking in respect and attention by the media and their own markets, it could be the reason for more to stand up and take notice.
Westgarth has already seen a difference. “Seen it all year in LA with that there are sell-outs down here. It’s awesome to see the fan support and I think will be just great for the game and to go out this way.”
He also pondered that tonight might not be the last time that the Ducks and Kings meet each other this year.