The danger of gaining a big lead over the competition in the early portion of the regular season is that you might lose steam going into the playoffs.
The Chicago Blackhawks have largely avoided that and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t slowed down even after surging past the competition in the Eastern Conference.
The Anaheim Ducks have been a different story. They are 5-7-2 in their last 14 games and lost their third contest in a row on Wednesday.
“I’m concerned,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau admitted to NHL.com following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I mean, when you want to win all the time, it’s a concern … you can’t use fatigue anymore as an excuse. It’s the same for everybody and these guys – it was their fourth game in six nights. What are you going to do?”
Even factoring in their recent struggles, not much has changed for the Anaheim Ducks from a seeding perspective. They’ve already secured their playoff spot and have a comfortable seven-point cushion in the battle for the Pacific Division. They might slip from the second to third seed, but even that seems highly unlikely.
So they don’t have much left to play for. Certainly not as much as a squad like the Blue Jackets, which are still fighting to get into the postseason. Teams want to stay sharp regardless, but at this point Boudreau hopes that their struggles are simply because they’ve all-but locked up the second seed.
“Deep down, I hope that’s the case,” Boudreau said. “If we’re playing as good as we can possibly play right now, then we haven’t picked it up as much as other teams have picked it up down the stretch.”
The Ducks will play in Calgary on Friday and then in Edmonton on Sunday and Monday. The Oilers and Flames won’t advance to the postseason, so those games will be a good opportunity for Anaheim to regain some lost momentum.