Win big or go home? The Anaheim Ducks did a lot of the former and will do the latter quite prematurely in 2013. There wasn't much in between.
Throughout the regular season Anaheim either was on a roll or falling flat. It started 22-3-4, won a club-record 13 home games in a row and looked every bit like a Stanley Cup contender. The flip side was that in its 12 regulation losses in the regular season it was outscored 46-15.
Such inconsistency was its demise in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Detroit Red Wings, where the second-seeded Ducks were eliminated in seven games. Anaheim now has won one Stanley Cup Playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Here are five reasons Anaheim will have an early start to its summer:
1. Top players outplayed
Anaheim has more star power on paper than Detroit, but it couldn't get its big guns clicking late in the series. Captain Ryan Getzlaf, who garnered Hart Trophy talk this season, was excellent early but a non-factor, with one assist in the final two games, and he couldn't grab Game 7 by the teeth like he had done in big games earlier this season.
Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne combined for six goals and nine assists. Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader combined for 10 goals and 11 assists. Zetterberg and Datsyuk were superb closers as they combined for eight points in Games 6 and 7. Datsyuk had a masterful goal in Game 6 and Zetterberg set the tone in Game 7 with the opening goal two minutes into the game and won a faceoff that led to the game-winning goal. At one point in Game 7, Zetterberg simply took the puck from Getzlaf when Anaheim tried to set up a power play.
2. Perry missing in action
One of the lasting images of Game 7 is Perry on his knees in front of the Anaheim bench after the horn sounded. This was a big-time shutout for the former Hart winner and 50-goal scorer, who had zero goals and two assists in seven games.
Perry's best chance probably came in Game 5, when he had the puck on his stick in front of the net all alone and couldn't convert. He had one great chance in the third period of Game 7, when Ryan fed him in front, but he was stopped by Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
This will be a motivating factor in the offseason for Perry, who signed an eight-year, $69 million contract extension in March that will pay him $7 million next season.
3. Bad starts
This was an issue for much of the 2012-13 season for Anaheim, which hit the snooze button often and couldn't make up for it.
The Ducks fell in a 4-1 hole in Game 2 and inexplicably came out flat in front of their home crowd in Game 7. It's not surprising they lost both games. This will be an issue that will carry into next season as coach Bruce Boudreau must determine why his team forgets when the puck drops.
4. Overtime was not Anaheim's friend
When a series is this close, a team has to find the little things to get the edge and come out victorious in the clutch. Detroit simply was better and also got the bounces it needed to win three of the four overtime games of the series.
The Red Wings caught the Ducks puck-watching on Gustav Nyquist's overtime goal in Game 2. Damien Brunner split the defense and got the puck to bounce off a Ducks defender and into the net in Game 4. Zetterberg's shot found the back of the net through traffic in Game 6.
5. Detroit's young players are pretty good too
The talk before the series was that Detroit's inexperience would be detrimental, but that wasn't the case.
Kindl, Smith, Brunner and Anderson combined for three goals and seven assists, including two overtime goals.
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