During the last few years the Ducks of Anaheim have struggled to conquer a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, let alone win a series. During the last three seasons they have played in a playoff series only once, and were eliminated in the first round by the Nashville Predators in 2010-2011. As one can see, it doesn’t really cope that much with the idea of a successful winning team.
It is obvious the team’s superstars Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry didn’t forget how to play, but they hadn’t been the dominant players they used to be anymore. Add to the equation the inconsistent play of the defensive corps and a less than average goalie’s performances and you don’t have to look any further to understand the Ducks’ lack of success in recent times. Basically, the only piece that was really working properly was the ageless Teemu Selanne, who will soon turn 43 years-old.
This season, however, the Ducks are playing some of the best hockey among the NHL teams and they would probably be the center of the media’s attention if it weren’t for the superb performance of the Chicago Blackhawks. Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan lead the team in points, goals and assists. Saku Koivu has contributed regularly, some surprises have appeared as the early success Daniel Winnik had in the first few weeks of the shortened season, and François Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray not only lead the team in plus/minus (over +20) but they’re also two of the best players in this category league wide!
As of March 22 the Ducks have a record of 22 wins, only 3 regulation losses and another 4 in the OT/shutout, which is good for incredible 48 points so far positioning them in the second place in the competitive wild West, but also in the second place overall. With less than 20 games to play, leading their division by 12 points and 17 points ahead of the ninth place in the conference, it would be pretty safe to say the Ducks are already in the playoffs. Let’s not forget that with the quality of the game they’ve showed until now the Ducks seem to be here to stay this season and one should consider them as a serious contender come the Stanley Cup playoffs. And one can’t help but wonder when or if Teemu Selanne will ever age. So far, Selanne insists on proving everybody wrong and seems like a good wine that becomes even better with age.
The cherry on the top of the cake came the last few days when the team finally announced the contract extensions signed with Getzlaf and the often criticized Perry. With identical 8 year contract extensions, both players showed commitment to the team and to its future, which will probably take the elephant out of the room regarding the trade deadline. Now they can focus only on what really matters: play hockey and collect wins, after all, the mighty Ducks appear to be back to Anaheim.