When the Anaheim Ducks lost nine of their first 10 games, making the playoffs looked like an uphill climb. Now they're Pacific Division champions for the fourth consecutive year.
Behind a 24-save shutout from Frederik Andersen, the Ducks beat the Washington Capitals 2-0 Sunday night in their regular-season finale. By sweeping weekend games at the Colorado Avalanche and Capitals, Anaheim leapfrogged the Los Angeles Kings to win the division and set up a first-round matchup against the Nashville Predators.
The Ducks went 34-10-5 since Christmas to help coach Bruce Boudreau win the eighth division title of his career. Boudreau has won the division in each of his seven chances when coaching a team for a full season, dating to his time with the Capitals.
Boudreau called this a "great reward" for players who bought in to playing defensive hockey when the goals weren't coming early. Anaheim allowed the fewest goals against of any NHL team, giving Andersen and John Gibson the William M. Jennings Trophy.
Andersen was sharp in his return from a five-game absence because of a concussion, most notably stopping T.J. Oshie late in a sleepy game to preserve the shutout.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals open the first round Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Washington was in cruise control in game 82, resting star forwards Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and defensemen John Carlson and Brooks Orpik with nothing to play for. Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped 19 shots starting in place of Braden Holtby, who got a rest instead of an attempt to break Martin Brodeur's single-season wins record. Holtby tied the record Saturday in St. Louis, making the Capitals' game Sunday mean nothing.