(Sports Network) - The second-seeded Anaheim Ducks will try to get a jump on
the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, as the clubs
open the best-of-series Tuesday in Orange County.
The Ducks are coming off the franchise's best regular season since winning
their one and only Stanley Cup title in 2006-07, as Anaheim surprised its way
to the second Pacific Division crown in club history.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau, who took over the reins for Anaheim in November of
the 2011, became a Jack Adams Award candidate in Year 2 with the Ducks,
leading the team to a stout 30-12-6 record.
The Ducks played a balanced brand of hockey under Boudreau this season,
finishing eighth in the NHL in team offense with 2.79 goals per game and
placing ninth in defense with an average of 2.40 goals surrendered. Anaheim's
winning percentage of .688 also was the best in club history, besting the
2006-07 club, which was the only other Ducks' team to win a division title.
Anaheim made the playoffs for the second time in four seasons during this
lockout-shortened campaign, and the resurgence of captain Ryan Getzlaf was big
in getting the Ducks back to the postseason after finishing 13th in the West
In 2011-12, Getzlaf managed only 11 goals and 57 points while playing in all
82 games. The goal total was the worst of his career while his 57 points only
bettered the 39 points he had in 57 games as a rookie back in 2005-06. The
club's top centerman bounced back in a big way this season, however, recording
15 goals and 34 assists for a total of 49 points in 44 games.
Corey Perry, Anaheim's top sniper, also played a big role for the Ducks this
season, matching Getzlaf for the team lead in goals and finishing second with
36 points. Both Getzlaf and Perry were rewarded for their efforts midway
through this season, as they each signed eight-year contract extension to keep
them in Anaheim through the 2020-21 seasons.
"This is an exciting time of the year. Any time the season ends and the real
fun begins, that's why we play the game," Getzlaf recently told his club's
official web site.
Outside of an impressive array of top forwards, which also includes Bobby Ryan
and Teemu Selanne, the Ducks' next-biggest strength is in net, where both
Jonas Hiller and rookie Viktor Fasth turned in strong seasons.
Hiller went 15-6-4 with a 2.36 goals against average and .913 save percentage
this season and he really played well down the stretch, recording a 1.79 GAA
over his last seven starts. Fasth went 15-6-2 with a 2.18 GAA, .921 save
percentage and four shutouts, but Hiller will start at the beginning of
the playoffs due to his playoff experience. He is 7-6 with a 2.23 GAA and .943
save percentage in the postseason, while Fasth's only playoff reps came while
playing in Sweden.
Detroit, meanwhile, is in the playoffs for a 22nd straight season, but it
wasn't easy making the postseason without legendary defenseman Nicklas
Lidstrom in tow. The Red Wings closed the regular season on a four-game
winning streak to help keep the playoff streak alive, but the seventh-place
finish in the West gives the club its worst seeding since it last missed the
postseason in 1989-90.
Fittingly, a couple of Swedes in Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson form
the top pairing for Detroit in the post-Lidstrom era. Kronwall is now
Detroit's top blueliner in the wake of his countryman's retirement and he led
the Red Wings with 29 points (5G, 24A) from the back end. He also led the
entire club with 24 minutes and 21 seconds ice time per game.
Jimmy Howard also turned in a fine season between the pipes for the Red Wings,
starting 42 of 48 games and posting a 21-13-7 record to go with a 2.13 GAA and
.923 save percentage. He also recorded five shutouts to tie four other
netminders for the league lead.
Howard, who was signed to a six-year extension during the season, still has a
lot to prove in the playoffs. The 29-year-old is 13-15 with a 2.63 GAA in 28
career postseason games and he surrendered 13 goals in five games during last
spring's first-round exit against the Predators.
The Red Wings' offense is still led by their top forwards Pavel Datsyuk and
Henrik Zetterberg, but Detroit's overall offensive depth is not what it used
to be. Still, Datsyuk was one of five Detroit players with double digit goals
this season, as he led the team with 15 markers to go along with a team-best
Zetterberg was fourth on the team with 11 goals, but just one point behind
Datsyuk for the club lead.
This is the sixth playoff meeting between the Red Wings and Ducks, who met
five teams in the postseason from 1997-2009. Detroit has won three of the five
series and beat Anaheim in seven games when the clubs last met in the 2009
The Red Wings also won two of the three regular-season encounters this year,
taking the last two meetings after Anaheim earned a 5-2 rout in Detroit on
Getzlaf and Perry each had a goal and two assists over the three encounters in
2013, while Justin Abdelkader led Detroit's offense with three goals and one
assist during the season series.
Howard clearly outplayed either Anaheim goaltender over the course of the
three meetings, going 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA. Hiller was 0-1 with a 2.50 GAA
and Fasth went 1-1-0 with a 3.61 GAA.
The next meeting in this series is scheduled for Thursday evening in Anaheim
before the venue shifts to Detroit for Games 3 and 4.
The Red Wings were 11-9-4 as the road club this season, while the Ducks
compiled a 16-7-1 mark at the Honda Center.
The Sports Network