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Ducks/Wings: Cautiously Optimistic

Looking ahead to the WCF, there are plenty of reasons for Duck fans to be optimistic about a match-up with Detroit, and plenty of reasons to be scared silly. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for optimism, shall we? In a later post, I’ll talk a bit more about reasons to be terrified.

First off, just as sort of a playoff recap, here’s a look at the western conference regular season, and the best records since Christmas:


Team GP Record Pts GF/gm GA/gm Win Pct


































A few things to note here: while the playoffs thus far have gone smoothly enough, it should be noted that the Ducks have been playing against pretty much the NHL’s best teams over the latter part of the season. Nobody had more points since Christmas than the Canucks (the Wild and Wings’ 66 points tied for fourth in the league), and over this stretch Minnesota and Vancouver were 1st and 3rd in the league, respectively, in goals-allowed per game.

So while some might say that the Ducks haven’t been scoring enough in the postseason (2.6 goals per game), I think considering the competition they have done very well (they also managed to pot 9 power play goals in 10 games while facing the regular season’s top two penalty killing teams). And if you recall, at the time when the ANA/MIN series started, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom hadn’t allowed more than two goals in a game in over a month. At the time when the ANA/VAN series started, Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo hadn’t been pulled in a game in over four and a half months.


But really, the key thing to note in the table above isn’t how good the competition was; it’s really how bad the Ducks were after Christmas, easily the worst of the playoff teams (worse than Colorado and St. Louis as well). Of course, there is a pretty simple explanation: injuries.

Back in late December, the Ducks transformed into the Anaheim Sucks, losing J.S. Giguere, Chris Pronger, and Francois Beauchemin to injury all within a three-game span. This sparked an 11-game slump where the Sucks went 2-7-2 (including 1-1-0 against Detroit), allowing the Wings, Predators, and Sabres back into the President’s Trophy race. Ignoring those 11 games of suckitude, the Ducks went 46-13-12 (.732), which projects out to a 120-point season--7 points more than Detroit or Buffalo ended up with. I don’t really point this out as a reason why the Ducks should be favored in any sense, but certainly the Ducks (when reasonably healthy) still belong among the elite.


The last time these two teams met was back on March 26 in Detroit, when Dominik Hasek stopped all 25 Duck shots en route to a 1-0 shutout victory. While that doesn’t scream optimism for the Ducks, it is noteworthy that in the month-and-a-half since then, the Ducks have only lost in regulation once (G4 at Minnesota), and that was another game played without Beauchemin dressing or Giguere starting.

Overall in the head-to-head season series, Hasek has some pretty good numbers (2-2, 2.02 GAA, .923 sv%), but they aren’t as impressive as Giguere (1-1, 1.02 GAA, .960 sv%) or even Bryzgalov (1-1, 2.03 GAA, .938 sv%). Still, Hasek has one thing going for him that neither Backstrom or Luongo had; he’s actually beaten the Ducks in the regular season.


Hm, I should really mention the penalty-killing of the Ducks, also, leading all postseason teams with a whopping 94.6% PK rate. While it's true this is pretty built up by exclusively playing Minnesota and Vancouver, it's still a commendable (if not dangerous) achievement.

The most impressive player here is Selke finalist Sammy Pahlsson, who by the time this series starts will have gone nearly 8 weeks without surrendering a power-play goal (nearly 90 straight shorthanded minutes, including 3-on-5s).


So there's probably a lot more that could be talked about (Giguere's playoff savvy, Selanne's playoff-scarred face, Detroit's depleted blue line), but it's enough for a start.

This is the third time in the past four postseasons that Anaheim has reached the western conference finals. Prior to this year, the Ducks had qualified for the playoffs four times (never in consecutive postseasons, and never with the same coach twice). They have lost once in the first round, once in the second round, once in the third round, and once in the fourth round.

This franchise has paid its dues, and I think it's got as good a chance as any of the four remaining teams. No matter what, though, this promises to be a tough and epic final four--a rarity in this day and age. Should be a real treat. Go Ducks.