The Anaheim Ducks sit in prime condition at second place in the Western Conference. With a sturdy 38-17-11 record, the Ducks have a great home record this year (20-5-7) but are not as effective on the road (18-12-4). The Ducks look to make a big impact in the playoffs this year, working a complete game from the back end of the ice on up.
GM Brian Burke made a few moves around the deadline this year, but he wasn’t as busy as he has been in the past. The Ducks sent goaltender Michael Wall over to the Colorado Avalanche for personality-player Brad May. May is great in the locker room and brings a tenacity to the ice that will greatly help the Ducks during the stretch. He also brings good size and a tangible energy to the ice, changing the game with a big hit or by dropping the gloves. May will serve as ample protection for some of the Duck’s forwards.
The Ducks forwards are impressive. They’re also young and full of potential. Teemu Selanne is the top Duck sniper, gracing the top line most nights with his blistering shot and tons of speed. He’s a 13+ year veteran in the NHL and makes an impact consistently. Selanne also has the ability to carry the puck into traffic and move through opposing defenders with a third gear that many players lack. He’s also quite big and can lay a firm hit when he needs to.
Along with the Finnish Flash, the Ducks boast youngsters Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Both solid centermen, Perry and Getzlaf bring piles of future potential and make a solid impact on a nightly basis. Getzlaf, a huge hit at the rookie All-Star game this year, is a confident player with a great set of hands and a nice slick shot. Perry is the tougher of the two, on most nights, and plays with a lot of grit. He’s also tremendously gifted offensively and plays his best hockey when he’s got a glove in the face or a hook around him.
Add to the forward core the speedy center Andy McDonald, offensive producer Chris Kunitz, quick veteran center Todd Marchant, feisty veteran Rob Neidermayer, hard-shooting rookie Dustin Penner, net-crowding winger Travis Moen and the scrappy George Parros and the Ducks start looking very impressive up front.
The defense is, of course, the star of the show in Anaheim. Led by All-Star greats Scott Neidermayer and Chris Pronger, the Ducks d-core is one of the deepest and deadliest in the league. Neidermayer is one of the quickest skaters in the league. He also has a deadly first-pass up the ice that sends most wingers streaking directly for the net and is defensively responsible in his own end. Neidermayer never takes a night off. Pronger’s got gobs of size and a mean-streak scarier than Space Mountain. Coming off of a season in Edmonton where he led the Oilers to the finals, Pronger looks to have the same success here except with one small detail in addition: the Stanley Cup.
Beyond Pronger and Neidermayer, the Ducks boast veteran Sean O’Donnell, Ric Jackman and offensive producer Francois Beauchemin. That’s a heck of an impressive selection of rearguards for the Ducks, certainly equaling a whole pile of trouble for any opposition down the road.
In goal, the Ducks have a one-two punch that many teams envy. Ilya Bryzgalov and JS Giguere man the space between the pipes with such tandem precision that scoring on the Ducks becomes a nightmare for opposing teams. Still, both goalies are prone to some soft goals here or there, so the best advice for any opposition would be to shoot, shoot and shoot again.
Anaheim is tremendously threatening in so many areas of their game that it is hard to pick a highlight. GM Brian Burke has put together a team that will challenge for the ultimate prize and hit teams fast with their offensive style and hardcore defense. It really will be a challenge to take on the Ducks in any round of the playoffs, but they will likely be most threatening in the first.