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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Anaheim Ducks Quietly Making a Splash

While everyone was focusing on the Chicago Blackhawks remarkable 21-0-3 start the Anaheim Ducks were quietly winning hockey games and making their way up the NHL standings. The Ducks lead their division and are 2nd in the NHL just four points behind the aforementioned Blackhawks. If not for the Blackhawks breaking records and eating up all the attention the Ducks would be the hottest team in the NHL.

The Ducks are 19-3-3 and while those may not be Blackhawks numbers, it's still quite impressive and it may be time for fans to start jumping on the Ducks bandwagon as the Blackhawks are reeling and the Ducks are flying. The Ducks are currently riding a 4 game wining streak and have the leagues best power play capitalizing on 26.7%, proving they are a force to be reckoned with in the West.

When looking at the Ducks success one thing you can't overlook is the affect of Bruce Brodreau. Here's a coach who was almost carried out of Washington by fans, media and even the players for not being able to get Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin to play up to their potential. He was made to be the joke of the NHL and after Brodreau fell from grace in Washington he found a new home in LA with the Ducks.

It wasn't exactly smooth swimming at first as the Ducks finished last in the division and 25th in the entire NHL. But to start off 2013 Brodreau seems to have them all on the same page, starting the year off 3-1-1 and turning that into a 19-3-3 run to 2nd in the NHL. Amazing what a coach can accomplish when he finds a bunch of players that are willing to listen, play hockey and aren't entirely self focused- heck there's even some talk of Brodreau being a frontrunner for the Jack Adams award. So how are the Capitals doing with Dale Hunter, oh right they had to make another coaching change since he didn't have any luck either. Having fun Adam Oates?

Bruce Brodreau deserves a ton of credit for turning the Ducks back into contenders. But the coach can't take all the credit as the product that takes the ice is what determines the out come and captain Ryan Getzlaf has been one of the Ducks best players right from the start. Getzlaf who isn't normally a "quick starter" started off the year on fire putting up two goals and three assists through the teams first five games.
"This year, he’s done a great job of leading by example on the ice. That’s probably the best way to be a captain: Lead on the ice, not just talk." ~ Bruce Brodreau on Ryan Getzlaf

The captain has not slowed down leading the team in scoring with 10 goals and 21 assists, he's put up 31 points which is good enough for 5th in the NHL. His strong play to start off the year earned him an 8 year $66 million bonus, a contract that will be tough for the captain to live up too but another Stanley Cup can only help.

Getzlaf's partner in crime Corey Perry has also stepped up to the plate and is 2nd on the team in scoring with 9 goals and 15 assists for 24 points through the first 24 games. This is a big year for Perry who is looking to test the free agent markets, putting up big points and helping his team win can only help his value- so the Ducks are benefiting from that. Bobby Ryan got off to a bit of a slow start this season with only one goal up to Feb. 1, which was a little troublesome as he's been their guaranteed 30 goal scorer over the last four seasons. Ryan has picked it up as of last with eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points.

Any team that plans on winning in the NHL, whether it be a streak like that Blackhawks, the Ducks or even a 5 game win streak, needs 2 things- Goaltending and secondary scoring. The Ducks have been getting solid secondary scoring from Saku Koivu (21 points), Teemu Selanne (17 points), Daniel Winnik ( 13 points) and Andrew Cogliano ( 16 points) which have helped make up for Ryan being cold early on.

[caption id="attachment_2609" align="alignright" width="195"]Anaheim Ducks forward Daniel Winnik Anaheim Ducks forward Daniel Winnik[/caption]

Daniel Winnik got off to the best start of any of the Ducks forwards, putting up five goals in the first five games and is already half-way to his career high 11 goals. Not bad for a guy who was expected to be a healthy scratch.
“Probably the biggest thing about scoring goals is believing you can, and he’s got the confidence that he can score. I don’t think he believes he’s pigeon-holed into a checking forward." ~ Bruce Brodreau on Daniel Winnik.

The Ducks have benefited from an un-sung hero between the pipes- Viktor Fasth. Fasth has been able to provide the Ducks with solid and consistent goaltending while Jonas Hiller has either been injured or inconsistent. Fasth has played in 13 games for the Ducks and is 10-1-1 with a 1.92 Goals Against Average and .929 Save Percentage.

The 30 year-old rookie earned himself a 2-year contract extension with the Ducks. He's been a major reason why the Ducks have been able to climb up the NHL standings and quietly become one of the best teams in the NHL right now. When both Fasth and Hiller are healthy and on their game they have potential to be the best goaltending tandem in the league.

Add productive forwards and solid goaltending to Francois Beauchemin, the Ducks best defenceman, who is having a fantastic year leading all Ducks defencemen with 16 points and eating up 23 minutes a night. But perhaps the best thing about Beauchemin is the fact he's not a liability on defence with a +/- 17, when he's on the ice the opposition isn't scoring often.

When everyone from the coach down to the goaltender is doing their job it makes a recipe for success and the Ducks are enjoying that success. The Anaheim Ducks are arguably the best team in the NHL right now and a real threat in the Western Conference. But perhaps what makes the Ducks more of a threat in the post-season than the Blackhawks is the fact that despite their strong play they've lost a few games. They're more accustomed to losing and now how to react next game to insure it doesn't happen again. The way the Ducks are coming together a run to another Stanley Cup isn't out of the question.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Thanks for covering so many different aspects of why the Ducks are doing so well this year! Duck fans know how well our boys have been playing & it's nice that you have noticed also!!