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2017 NHL Playoff Preview: Pacific Division

It’s anyone’s guess who will come out of this four-team grouping.

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As far out west as you can go in North America, you find the Pacific Division of the National Hockey League. Having had a wide-open regular season, expect this bracket to be a free-for-all.

One of these four teams — Anaheim, Edmonton, San Jose, or Calgary — will get to the Western Conference finals. You should not be surprised no matter which club emerges.

The division race in the Pacific came down to the final week before Anaheim finally got away from Edmonton in Game 82. In the last two or three weeks, four teams were in the hunt. All four are in the postseason and will slug it out to advance. Of the four divisional playoff pods in the NHL this season, the Pacific is the most unpredictable.

1 Anaheim Ducks vs. WC1 Calgary Flames

The Ducks went 4-1 against the Flames during the 2016-17 season, but Calgary won almost as many games as Anaheim did. A key difference between Anaheim’s first and Calgary’s fourth were a lot of accumulated loser points.

Anaheim has a good goaltending situation going for them. John Gibson was out with an injury, but has a few starts back under his belt. He’s arguably been better each contest since his return. He can help guide the Ducks to the second round, but it’s the defense in front of him that shined all year. Anaheim’s defense has been exceptional, but for the fact that they’ve taken some recently unfortunate injuries. Cam Fowler would be a big loss for the Ducks if he misses this series, and they’re trying to get Sami Vatanen back.

Ironically, Calgary played the Ducks twice last week and lost both games of a home-and-home. The big difference between these two teams is that Anaheim has a figured-out goalie situation. Calgary’s may be figured out, but not in a good way. Brian Elliott has had a down year overall (though better lately), and Chad Johnson is battling back from injury. He’s been about as mediocre as Elliott.

The Flames will have to get some lucky breaks as well as extraordinary performances from their top forwards. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are doing well for Calgary, but a great offensive team they are not. Don’t write the Flames off in this series, but they don’t match up well with Anaheim. Furthermore, the Ducks are an excellent home team, and Calgary can’t win in Orange County to save their lives. You might get your money’s worth if they start literally beating the crap out of each other again.

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