Thirteen. That’s the number of games the Anaheim Ducks have participated in since the start of April. In other words, they’ve had an off day nearly three-quarters of the time over that span.
That light schedule, brought on primarily thanks to their quick work of Winnipeg and Calgary, has been great for recovering from the wear and tear of the campaign and postseason, but it’s also hard to stay sharp when you’re not actually playing. Avoiding rust can be a challenge, but its one defenseman Cam Fowler feels they’ve met through intense practices.
“The big reason why we’ve had success is because how we’ve been practicing has carried over into the games,” Fowler said, per the team’s website. “That’s really important, especially when you have six or seven days off. It might be easy to sit back and relax for a second, but the good thing about our group is we continue to push each other in practice.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has noticed that too and praised the team’s determination, even compared to what Anaheim showed him in previous years.
“We’ve practiced a lot, and they’ve been hard practices, but these guys haven’t complained about it,” Boudreau said. “They’ve embraced the practices.”
It has to help that the Ducks are seeing results for their efforts. For the first time since 2007, Anaheim is in the Western Conference Final. The Chicago Blackhawks will likely prove to be more difficult than the Ducks’ previous opponents, but if Anaheim plays like it did in the first two rounds then this should be a good series.
Perry returns to Ducks practice after missing previous two
Kesler has ‘upped’ his game in the playoffs
Silfverberg’s playoff breakout is a big part of Ducks’ success
It’s been almost 11 full months since the Vancouver Canucks traded Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in a draft day blockbuster.
The Ducks are winning this trade.
The Canucks had a rebound season but it ended in disappointment with a first-round playoff loss to Calgary. The Ducks and the 30-year-old Kesler are in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
With four wins in this round, the Ducks would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Should that happen, it would be Kesler’s second trip to the championship series in five years.
And he’s been a big part of the Ducks’ success this post-season, too.
From the Orange County Register:
Twenty goals and 27 assists were welcomed and appreciated over the 82-game schedule, but not the primary reason why Murray kept talking to Vancouver about acquiring him. He’s got four goals and five assists in the Ducks’ playoff games, but it’s more than that.
Kesler has been dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 63.7 percent of his draws. He’s an essential part of a penalty-killing unit that’s allowed only four power-play goals. And each of his scores has made a difference.
“There’s been a lot of moments like that,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Those are the things that probably stand out more for me than anybody scoring three goals or getting booed or any of those things.
“So far, what I’ve seen, he’s upped his game.”
The leading playoff scorer was back on the ice Friday, as Corey Perry returned to Anaheim Ducks practice after missing it on Tuesday and Thursday.
Perry, who leads all postseason skaters with 15 points through nine games, was shook up in the series-clinching Game 5 win over Calgary in Round 2, courtesy a collision with Flames forward Matt Stajan. Perry looked to be in serious discomfort on the play, but returned shortly afterward and went on to score the game-winner in OT.
There was some concern of a lingering ailment following the Stajan hit, but Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said he fully expects Perry to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, which will go at the Honda Center on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
The Colorado Avalanche have made an interesting signing — 24-year-old forward Andreas Martinsen, who spent the last three seasons playing in Germany.
Martinsen, who’s represented Norway internationally on a number of occasions, scored 18 goals and 41 points in 50 games for Dusseldorfer last year. His size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and physical play (team-high 99 penalty minutes) are what’s intriguing; in some ways, he’s not unlike another German League player to come to the NHL — David Wolf, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder that joined the Flames this season after racking up a league-high 152 PIM in 2013-14.
(Wolf, 25, appeared in three regular-season and one playoff game for Calgary this year. He did make a name for himself, though, by getting after Corey Perry in warmups prior to Game 2 of the Ducks series.)
This isn’t the first time the Avalanche have combed the European leagues for talent. Last year, the club signed Borna Rendulic out of the Finnish league, and he went on to become the first Croatian born and trained player to play in the NHL (appearing in 11 games all told.)
The Anaheim Ducks needed to play just nine games to get past the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames. In order to accomplish that, goaltender Frederik Andersen had to be sharp and the Ducks’ star forwards had to perform as advertised, but Anaheim also required help from its supporting cast. It got it and no one exemplifies that more than Jakob Silfverberg.
The 24-year-old forward has three goals and is tied for fifth in the league with 11 points in the postseason. That’s in stark contrast to his 13 goals and 39 points in 81 regular season contests.
“He’s been a difference-maker in all the games,” Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew he was capable, but he’s gotten hot at the right time and that’s great.”
Silfverberg feels like he’s playing the same way he has all season and wonders if the difference has simply been puck luck. At the same time, this could be a matter of his hard work paying off.
“Just from day one, seeing what he does, seeing his puck skills, seeing the way he can shoot the puck, I knew he could score,” linemate Ryan Kesler said. “It was just a matter of doing it game in and game out. He’s found that consistency to his game now and we’ve been working well off each other.”
Given that the Ducks will face the Chicago Blackhawks next, they’ll have to hope that Silfverberg can continue to be a significant factor.
“I think if we keep playing like we did in the previous two series we should be fine,” Silfverberg said. “We’re playing on top of our game right now and I don’t think there’s a better time to face the Blackhawks than right now.”