The Anaheim Way
With the playoffs around the corner, most NHL fans have already placed their bets on who will be making it out of each conference.
In the West, Vancouver handedly took the top spot, along with winning the President's Trophy for the season. Right behind them in the rankings are San Jose and Detroit, with a single point making all the difference. And closing out the top 4 is Los Angeles, who have managed to stay strong, even with the losses of Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.
With 4 teams gaining entry into the post-season, two questions remain.
1. What 4 teams will make the final cut?
That's easy: Nashville, Phoenix, Anaheim and Chicago
2. What teams will make the largest impact?
For the sake of this post, I will only focus on one team for now: Anaheim.
Everyone likes the nostalgia of rooting for the teen actors in the Mighty Ducks films, but in the NHL, the once "Mighty" Ducks of Anaheim are a very real threat to Western Conference. And after some of the team's recent highlights, that shouldn't come across as a surprise. 50 goals in a season, hat-tricks at age 40, and positive results from a goalie nobody wanted are just a few.
Historically, Anaheim's playoff strength has come from their goalies. The hockey world is never going to forget the shock of watching Jean-Sebastien Giguere hold down the fort against the entire Western Conference, including a sweep of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2003 playoffs. Giguere took the team all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to be defeated by the New Jersey Devils.
Currently, their strength in the net comes from Jonas Hiller, who is third in the West in save percentage (.924%) and has 5 shutouts for the season. His backup is Ray Emery, who has started 9 games for the Ducks since his return to the NHL. He currently has 7 victories and a save percentage of .926%, and with his playoff experience from his days in Ottawa, the Ducks can sleep comfortably knowing they are not depending on one goalie.
Not only do the Ducks have the nets covered, but those guys can also score. Corey Perry put up a hat-trick last night and earned his 50th goal of the season. He also leads the team in points (97). Teemu Selanne is right behind him with 78, and captain Ryan Getzlaf has 75. With additions from Bobby Ryan and Cam Fowler, it is safe to say that Anaheim has plenty of options if the team should need a definitive leader.
With the playoffs fast approaching, the Ducks are clearly going to be the most exciting team to watch in the West. Momentum is on their side, and they have proven throughout the season that they are only going to play great hockey.