The Anaheim Ducks have advanced to the Western Conference Final. In this Puck Prose series on the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, here’s how the Ducks have progressed this far. It”s mostly the will of Ryan Getzlaf.
The Anaheim Ducks have willed their way past both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. In the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks are on a mission to eliminate all the Canadian teams. But how have they succeeded so far? What is the secret to Anaheim’s success?
Ryan Getzlaf Is Simply Better
Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf (15) moves the puck under pressure (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
Ryan Getzlaf is second in points in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s only behind offensive force Evgeni Malkin. Getzlaf has played a key role in getting the Ducks this far, as he’s scored eight goals, tied for second in the playoffs. He’s also scored ten assists.
Only one of these goals has been a game winner. But Getzlaf has assisted on numerous game-winning goals, and his own game-winner helped cement the series sweep of the Flames. Getzlaf has had seven multiple-point games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Again, the Ducks win off the sheer will of Getzlaf.
Of Getzlaf’s 10 assists, including three in one game, all have been primary assists. Which means he’s the one setting up the goal scorer, making the play leading to the shot. And while that doesn’t show up on the scoreboard – Getzlaf hasn’t scored against Nashville – it changes the game. That’s what Getzlaf has been again for the Ducks, someone who changes the game.
As we approach the Stanley Cup Final, more and more will be said about the Conn Smythe. There’s about to be an article from me on why Pekka Rinne already has earned the trophy. But if the Ducks are able to advance past the Preds, make no mistake, the winner is Ryan Getzlaf. Because again, this team rides on his sense of will.
Scoring multiple points in seven playoff games means you’re doing something right. And it’s assisting multiple people while not sacrificing his own scoring. Getzlaf is tied for second in goal scoring while having ten assists. He’s not sacrificing any area of his own game.
Defensive Force Field
John Gibson, the Ducks goaltender, has posted a .915 SV% and a 2.74 GAA. That’s good for fifteenth best in both categories. And yet, the Ducks have allowed two goals or fewer six times in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While some of those have been losses, still, holding teams to just a couple goals (or less) gives the Ducks a better chance of winning. Even with a below-average goaltender.
The Ducks defense has been stronger than many teams. That ability to shut down teams is coming from a defensive group consisting of Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour, Shea Theodore, and Josh Manson. All six have been key in the Ducks defensive performance, and it’s allowed them the ability to win games. And Fowler and Vatanen have missed time, and the Ducks other defense stepped up in their absence, including Kevin Bieksa.
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) plays for the puck (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
While their stats have not been great looking, again, below-average playoff goaltender. The Ducks have allowed the fifth-most shots on goal per game. Still, that’s below the Pittsburgh Penguins, who show what having a better goaltender can do.
The Ducks defense has also contributed offensively. In the first series against the Calgary Flames, the defense contributed 12 points. That includes two goals from Shea Theodore in game 3, including the game-tying goal. Theodore also contributed an assist on the game-winning goal of game 1. He’s the one who really stepped up in the absence of two of the Ducks’ top three defenders.
In series two against Edmonton, when the defenders were healthy once more, they made the difference again. The defense added fifteen points, including assists on two game-winners. Cam Fowler also tacked on a goal in game 5. Two goals were assisted only by defensemen.
In the series against Nashville so far, the defense has tacked on two goals.
Of teams left in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks have the highest face-off win percentage. And it’s not close. The Ducks are at a 54% success rate. The other closest final four team is Ottawa with 52%.
The Ducks have had a face-off win percentage above 55% in nine of their games. They’ve never gone below 40% as a team, and when they’ve won the faceoff matchup, they’ve dominated. This team is intense at the dot, and they focus on winning.
All four of their consistent centers – Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Nate Thompson, and Antoine Vermette – have won their faceoffs in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at a rate above 50%. Hell, Chris Wagner, who’s taken faceoffs at times throughout these playoffs, has a rate of 59.3%. Vermette is the greatest of these centers, at 59.7%. Kesler is at 54.3%, Getzlaf at 52.3%, and Thompson at 51.7%.
Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette (50) and center Nate Thompson (44) celebrate (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
And that ability to win at the dot has translated into success for the Ducks. With their centers all having great success, the Ducks have been able to get quick shots off and to possess the puck more. The Ducks Corsi has been great in the playoffs, and in part, it’s because of the Ducks’ faceoff ability.
The Ducks don’t have to worry about finding a faceoff specialist, either. Considering all four of their guys are good at it, plus Wagner, who’s been hitting at either 100% wins or 0%.