The Anaheim Ducks have had a very impressive start to the NHL season. At 14-3-1 for 29 points in 18 games, they sit atop the Pacific Division. In fact, if it wasn’t for the incredible play of the Chicago Blackhawks, and the fact that they get ignored due to the fact that most of their games are played in the Pacific Time Zone, the Ducks would be the talk of the NHL this season. Last night the Ducks put a real exclamation point on their strong early season run in a complete drubbing of the Nashville Predators.
Bruce Boudreau, the fun loving, foul mouthed coach who took over the team last season, a team that would finish last in their division, and 25th in the NHL, has the team playing solid hockey and has quickly turned things around this year. Boudreau has done this without any major big name additions to the club this off-season, instead, it is through solid team play, and contributions from all members of the lineup that the Ducks are currently playing winning hockey.
Consider a lineup where a virtual unknown, 30 year old “rookie” goaltender by the name of Viktor Fasth has taken over the number one job. He’s 9-1-0 on the season, with a 926 save percentage, and a Goals Against Average under 2.00. Fasth has been sensational, and has taken over while incumbent number one Jonas Hiller has struggled with an 0.879 save percentage and 3.34 GAA. Despite those struggles, Hiller has a 5-2-1 record as the Ducks offence has been firing on all cylinders and picked him up.
Offensively we have a usual suspect in Ryan Getzlaf leading the way with 21 points in 18 games this season. Recently, he’s been playing with Corey Perry (17 points), and rookie Kyle Palmieri who scored a hattrick last night, and now has 7 goals on the season.
However the Ducks are not a one line team, and thats a good thing since Boudreau juggles his lines as much as any coach in the NHL. As a result, naming the permanent combinations is extremely difficult, even impossible. What cannot be denied though is that Boudreau is pushing the right buttons, and getting contributions throughout the lineup, such as oldies, but goodies, Saku Koivu (17 points) and Teemu Selanne (16 points), the bounce back kid Bobby Ryan (13 points) and reclamation projects Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano (5 goals, 9 points each). Boudreau is pushing the magic buttons and getting the most out of the lineup game in and game out.
The defence has also been extremely impressive. Francois Beauchemin has turned back the clock and is playing like the 25+ minute defender who helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007. The only difference is that back then, he was the number 3 defenceman on the time. Today he is the club’s number 1 option, and is playing like a guy who deserves that title. He’s more than picked up the slack while the young guns Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler have struggled offensively, and Fowler has even been out with injury at times. Tony Lydman is leading the club as a shutdown defender in his own end of the rink. Rescued for the AHL, Sheldon Souray has provided two way contributions with his big point shot on the powerplay and solid defence in his own end. Coupled with Bryan Allen the two have given the Ducks some real grit and toughness on the back end.
The numbers show that Boudreau truly is getting the best out of his club. He’s getting key contributions from his big names, from his veterans, and from his youngsters and rookies. Unknown journeymen, and reclamation projects are at the top of their game, along with superstars like Getzlaf and Perry. The veteran leaders are producing like they are 10 years younger than they actually are. It truly is a total team effort and Boudreau is at the helm, pushing the buttons like a real life Gordon Bombay. We’re just guessing he uses a bit more colorful language, that may not be Disney approved.
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