Dominant Ducks Cup Contenders?
Following a convincing 3-0 win over rivals LA in the first of the Stadium Series games, Anaheim extended their lead at the top of the NHL to 7 points.
Their 39-10-5 record sets them apart from defending Cup champions Chicago (76 points), St Louis (75 points), Pittsburgh and San Jose (both 74 points).
It’s not unusual to see a team coached by Bruce Boudreau blaze through the regular season, and a place in the post season is now all but assured; but can the Ducks carry their form in to the play-offs and win their second Stanley Cup?
The obvious answer is of course ‘yes’ – any team who displays this kind of dominance in a Division that also contains the Kings, Sharks, Canucks and Coyotes has to have *something* about them.
Extend that to the Conference, where there are several other ‘powerhouses’, and the Ducks dominance is all the more impressive.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf is a serious contender for the Hart Trophy right now, recording 25 goals and 60 points in 50 games, while running mate Corey Perry leads the team in goals (28) and is also better than a point per game (57 in 54).
Add in the break out season 25-year old Nick Bonino is having, alongside strong campaigns from Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner, and the California franchise is getting some pretty impressive front line and secondary scoring.
Whilst the offence has gained most of the plaudits (only Chicago has scored more goals so far this season), the blue line isn’t exactly weak. Cam Fowler is on course for his best season yet, Francois Beacuchemin continues his resurgence and Hampus Lindholm is emerging as a more than capable NHL blue liner.
Throw in some strong goaltending performances from Jonas Hiller, who stopped all 36 shots at Dodger Stadium last night, and their latest rookie sensation Frederik Andersen, and Anaheim is getting one of the key components to any teams success.
This combination of ability at both ends, depth (especially down the middle) and solid (or better) goaltending certainly seems like a recipe for success. Strength at centre is certainly a trait we’ve seen among many Cup winners over the years!
The knocks against the Ducks? Well, one lies behind the bench – at least that’s how an awful lot of people still see it.
Boudreau’s ‘let ’em play’ style, as it is so often termed, leads to some exciting hockey and offensive success. But, as he found in Washington, it may not always be the most effective tactic come the post season.
Over the course of a series, Plan A can be counter acted – whether the affable Toronto native has a ‘Plan B’ remains to be seen; many feel he was simply out coached in the play-offs during his tenure as Capitals supremo.
And whilst Getzlaf and Perry’s pedigree is under little doubt, it remains to be seen whether Bonino can maintain his current level of play or whether Andrew Cogliano can remain a potent goal scorer.
Health may also be considered an issue for Anaheim. Whilst injuries are an intangible that can derail any club, the Ducks have lost key players already this season. Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Jakob Silfverberg and Lucas Sbisa have all missed time (the latter is still on the IR), whilst Sheldon Souray has missed the entire season.
But, as I hinted at, injuries can strike any team at any time – the reality is, the Ducks appear to be a serious contender this season.
Even if they don’t go all the way, it’d take a heck of a team, in what would almost certainly be a heck of a series, to topple them come the post season – giving fans everywhere something to enjoy.