With all due respect to the fast-starting Chicago Blackhawks, the Anaheim Ducks are the most imposing bunch in the Western Conference this season.
They are 18-3-3 this season and 42-17-9 over their last 68 games.
“We were third in the league from January on until the end of the year last year,” defenseman Francois Beauchemin told the Orange County Register. “I think we're playing probably the same way we did the last stretch last year. We were so far deep that we couldn't catch up.
“Now this year, we started playing the way we finished last year. We're getting results out of it.”
Here is why the Ducks are the best:
- The addition of Viktor Fasth gave them a second elite goaltender to go with Jonas Hiller. This paid huge dividends earlier this season when Hiller battled the puck and minor injuries.
- Ryan Getzlaf is playing like an elite center again. Corey Perry is mustering a salary drive as he approaches free agency. With Bobby Ryan jumping up on the Getzlaf/Perry line more frequently, the league needs to fear this No. 1 line.
- Anaheim’s power play has converted 11 of its 28 power-play opportunities since Feb. 18. “The biggest thing is puck recovery,” defenseman Cam Fowler told the Los Angeles Times. “If we can get three, four guys into the corner and set it up all over again, we're going to have a good chance for pressure and more opportunities.”
- The addition of Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen beefed up their defense. And Beauchemin, with 16 points scored, has been playing like a Norris Trophy candidate since recovering from his serious shoulder injury. “He's healthy, the lockout did him wonders to get him healthy,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the Times.
- Andrew Cogliano is using his speed and skill to add offense, as the Blues saw first hand. He has scored nine times this season.
- Teemu Selanne keeps defying Father Time to add secondary scoring. He is one of 11 Ducks with five or more goals. Daniel Winnik, Kyle Palmieri (currently out with an upper body injury) and Nick Bonino have all played well in the supporting cast.
“We do have some guys that can put the puck in the net other than Getzy and Perry and Bobby,” Boudreau told the Register. “You never think of our guys as offensive guys but if you look down the list, I think we're in the top three of teams scoring goals.”