By AJ Manderichio
Whenever he takes the ice, Ryan Getzlaf is capable of making the improbable happen.
Whether it’s an incredible pass through three defenders to tie the game – as he did against San Jose – or a lethal wrist shot to deliver an overtime winner – more on this below – Getzlaf does it all for the Ducks. It’s those types of plays, along with many other examples from the 2014-15 season, which continues to cement his status among the top centers in the league.
By season’s end, Getzlaf once again sat among the league leaders in assists, with his 31 primary helpers, putting him fourth among all skaters. He landed in the top-10 in even-strength assists (33) and co-led the league in overtime scoring (2g/3a). The captain continued to re-write team records as well, moving past Paul Kariya into second place on the club’s all-time scoring list.
In terms of personal performance, Getzlaf continued a three-year trend of positive individual Fenwick (unblocked shot attempts) and Corsi (shot attempt differential) improvement. He set career-highs in both individual Fenwick/60 (10.523) and individual Corsi/60 (13.223) at even-strength.
The mark of a good center, though, is in his ability to elevate teammates. Those assist numbers and advanced stats only tell one side of the story.
Consider Patrick Maroon, who almost evenly split his minutes with and without Getzlaf at even strength this season. When skating on the top line, Maroon received a noticeable bump in his stats, including Goals For per 60 (3.30 compared to 2.19), Corsi-For percentage (61.61 compared to 53.23) and Corsi percentage (55.8-percent to 48.7-percent). Maroon collected 12 of his 25 even-strength points (3g/9a) with Getzlaf, a whopping 48% of his total.
The same holds true for linemate (and possible twin) Corey Perry, as well as defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler.
The 30-year-old Getzlaf was no slouch on the defensive side of the puck either. Along with his 95 blocked shots (ranking second among all Ducks skaters), he led the team in takeaways (55) and took almost 32-percent of all the team’s draws in the defensive zone.
Faceoffs were one major of improvement for Getzlaf this season. He posted a career-best 50.6-percent win percentage.
Getzlaf carried over that level of play into the postseason, finishing tied for the league-lead in assists (18) while playing through a sports hernia.
It’s no secret the Ducks look to Getzlaf as their emotional leader. When he throws a big hit, it ignites the bench and gets the crowd on its feet. When he’s angry, his teammates are focused. We all know the lore of the snot rockets – a good one or two usually means something big will happen. This leadership was noticed. Getzlaf finished as a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
Despite his on-ice success, he acknowledged his efforts weren’t good enough.
“It’s disheartening,” Getzlaf said during his end-of-the year interview. “We moved closer to our goal, but we’re not where we want to be.
“Hopefully our guys learned some lessons this year. I learned some things. We need to approach the start of next year the way we did at the start of this one, on a mission to get back and have that opportunity.”
Getzlaf’s flair for the dramatic showed up on a cold night in Boston, with the Ducks needing a big win against a Bruins squad fighting for their playoff lives. With the teams deadlocked at two in overtime, Fowler found a streaking Getzlaf at center ice. The captain skated the puck over the blueline, with two defenders ahead. He quickly prepared for a shot, letting go a quick wrister that sailed over the glove of Tuukka Rask.
The goal was Getzlaf’s seventh career overtime tally, setting a new franchise record.