“The Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the Western conference.”
Is that sentence wrong? Does it sound odd? Am I stuck in 2006-07? Are Ducks the Cup favorite right now? Yes, no and maybe.
The thing is there is only one team right now that has lost fewer games than the Ducks, that of course being the Blackhawks. This is impressive all on its own because the Hawks had not lost in regulation for the first 24 games and set a new record for the longest point streak to start the season. Interestingly, that same streak also dethroned the 06-07 Ducks’ record. The Ducks did win the cup that year, and this year have already beaten the Hawks in the shootout.
So why am I talking about the Ducks instead of the Hawks?
The Ducks have made the news a lot lately since they have made two huge signings, or rather extensions, to their two top players. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have been signed to the longest deals possible under the current CBA – eight years with combined net worth of around $140 million. While Minnesota Wild fans probably think that that’s peanuts, these two deals are massive. Both coming in at a weight of over $8 million per year in CAP hits. It was a great move to keep the two best players and make them Ducks for life, hopefully.
While the above deals have been generating some buzz and increasing the Ducks Twitter trending rating, what disappoints me is how no one seems to notice how good this team is. Is it because they are far from the big lights of the East?
The Ducks last failed to gather a point 11 games ago now, when they lost to the LA Kings five to two. Only Chicago has scored more goals than Anaheim in the West and only Chicago has let in fewer goals. The similarities continue between these two Western Conference juggernauts.
Both teams have found both of their goaltenders can play any game and play well. The Ducks have really relied heavily on Viktor Fasth, who has come in to help shut the door down for the Ducks when Jonas HIller struggled early on. Fasth has very impressive numbers with 2 GAA , .927 SV%, and 2 shutouts. Both goalies split an even amount of games, which gives coach Bruce Boudreau an amazing option of rolling any goalie any time without the dreaded back-up consequences.
Speaking of Bruce Boudreau – remember him? The only individual I know who curses more than Ozzy and the one who apparently could no longer coach big superstars in Washington. Remember him? Not a bad coaching job he is doing with the Ducks, huh? The greatest thing he has been able to accomplish is to re-establish Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry into the dominant power forwards everyone knew they could be. Ryan Getzlaf has 33 points and 11 goals so far and Corey Perry has 9 goals and 24 points. Both have an excellent plus/minus rating and Corey Perry has 5 game winning goals.
Obviously their performance this year has a lot to do with those big contracts they just received because both players really under performed last year and started to be included in trade rumors. Those rumors are at bay now, but how exactly has this team found such success after missing the playoffs last year?
Besides a few key injuries that derailed the Ducks last year season, it seems that the Ducks like to go a season in the playoffs and a season out of playoffs. They have been playing this dance for the past five years and this year will continue the trend.
This years success comes from the performance of depth players and the “old” guys. Teeme Selanne, Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano, and Francois Beauchemin are all having fantastic years so far. Francois Beauchemin is really having an offensive coming out party at a tender age of 32 years old. He has 18 points in just 28 games and is plus 19. Saku Koivu has always been offensively relevant in the past but he has stepped it up a bit this year with 22 points in 28 games. He has been on the decline for the past five years and some thought he could be nearing the end of his career at the age of 38. I guess being inspired by his teammate Teemu Selanne, who is 42 years young, has helped Saku get back to feeling young(ish) again.
The impressive thing is the amount of goals everyone is scoring on this team. Andrew Cogliano is finally finding his scoring touch as he has 10 goals on the season. Daniel Winnik has chipped in with six, Kyle Palmieri has seven, Nick Bonino has five, Sheldon Souray has five, and Matt Belesky has five goals as well.
The depth of scoring is impressive, but what is also impressive is the defensive game. Maybe it is just the great goaltending, but you can’t deny the fact that you would be hard pressed to find a minus player on this roster. The fact is that Bruce Boudreau has this team flying, scoring, and playing great hockey, which is something he did in Washington before he decided to install the trap. Remember when everyone on the Capitals were scoring and they had the number one power play in the league?
Not everything is peachy in the sunny Anaheim though. This team does not always dominate as they have been out shot in 16 games so far and their penalty kill is 24th in the league. Saku and Cogliano have a really high shooting percentage that probably won’t stick. Hiller has looked shaky at times and you have to wonder what a bad start can do for your playoff series, while Fasth has been fantastic he has had few leaks as well. Both goalies at this point will only be judged on their playoffs performance, and with not a lot of experience to draw from, it could get ugly for the Ducks – fast.
But now I am getting ahead of myself.
Tonight the two best teams in the West, and possibly the league, go at it. This should be a very interesting game to watch and a very interesting opportunity to judge just who exactly is the favorite team to win the cup this year. The Hawks have been looked at with a microscope by everyone, yet the Ducks have been winning under the mainstream media radar.
Tonight we shine the microscope on the Ducks and let us see if they show any cracks.
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photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc