Ducks claim Pacific Division crown and will face Preds; Kings get a date with the Sharks

Associated Press

After a brutal start to the season, no one expected the Anaheim Ducks to be in contention for the Pacific Division crown on the final night of the season. Not only was Anaheim still alive in the division title race, but Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Capitals earned them the crown.

The Ducks will open the playoffs against the Nashville Predators. The Preds won’t be an easy opponent for Anaheim, but facing Nashville means they’ll avoid both of their state rivals in the first round. Games between California rivals are often fast and heavy. The fact that the Ducks avoided that kind of confrontation could benefit their Stanley Cup aspirations.

Speaking of those state rivals, Anaheim’s win means the Kings and Sharks will face-off in the round one.

Here’s what the entire Western Conference bracket looks like:

–Dallas Stars (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (WC 2)

–Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. Nashville Predators (WC 1)

–Los Angeles Kings (Pacific 2) vs. San Jose Sharks (Pacific 3)

–St. Louis Blues (Central 2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Central 3)

Special teams often makes the difference in a tight playoff matchup and it looks like the Ducks will hold an advantage in that category no matter who they go up against.