Ah the springtime, when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and Jakob Silfverberg plays his best hockey of the year.
For the second straight season, the Ducks winger has brought new meaning to the term “spring forward,” going on a prolific scoring streak while maintaining his prowess in the defensive end. Last year you could make the case Silfverberg was Anaheim’s best player in the postseason, scoring 18 points (four goals and 14 assists) in 16 playoff games, while teaming with Ryan Kesler to shut down the top scoring lines from Winnipeg, Calgary and Chicago.
This year Silfverberg’s postseason contribution remains to be seen, but his spring scoring spree after a slow start offensively was nothing short of incredible. The 25-year-old didn’t score his first goal until his 20th game of the season, and he only had three at the halfway point of the campaign. But a jaw-dropping 11 goals in the regular season’s final 15 games (including a hat trick March 14 vs. New Jersey) boosted Silfverberg to the first 20-goal season of his four-year career.
|“That’s what has made me successful, and that’s what brought me back this year," Silfverberg says of his defensive ability. "I got a lot of confidence from the coaches about my defensive play, and all of a sudden I got the bounces and started scoring goals again. But I think it’s almost as fun shutting guys down as it is to score a goal myself.” |
“It’s a milestone,” Silfverberg shrugs. “It’s tough scoring goals in this league, that’s for sure, and obviously I’m very happy with it. I take a little bit of pride in that.”
His linemate on Anaheim’s shutdown unit was (as usual) a little more blunt. “I told him it was about time he started putting the puck in the net because I was going to stop passing to him,” Kesler deadpanned. “But it’s pretty incredible that he got 20 goals in as short a time as he did. It just shows that when he gets hot, he can really do some damage.”
It’s not like Silfverberg intends to cruise through the fall and winter before turning it on when the leaves change green, but the coincidence is not lost on him.
“I don’t know, I’ve gotten that question a few times, and it does make me think,” he says. “I always kind of say, no one wants to have a bad game, and with the start I had, I hope I never have to do that again."
Last year he had just one goal in the first 27 games of the season before finishing with 13 and turning it on in the playoffs.
"Obviously you want to play well throughout the whole year. This year in the beginning of the season it just didn’t happen for me, and same as last year," he says. "Hopefully it’s just a coincidence, and next year I’ll be good from the start.”
But even when he’s not finding the back of the net, Silfverberg remains one of Anaheim’s most valuable contributors. His pinpoint wrist shot has made him the NHL career leader in shootout efficiency (minimum 20 attempts) at 62.1 percent (18 for 29), which has undoubtedly helped the Ducks win key regular season games but obviously won’t be an asset in the playoffs. His defensive ability is never in question, a trait that was ingrained in him virtually from the moment he put skates on for the first time.
“I think most of the Swedes, that’s how they learn to play,” says Silfverberg, a native of Gävle, Sweden, located near the Baltic Sea. “It’s not very often you see a purely offensive Swedish forward. You kind of learn from the start playing defense first. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in, even when I was a kid when I played juniors or wherever.
“That’s what has made me successful, and that’s what brought me back this year [when I wasn’t scoring as much]. I got a lot of confidence from the coaches about my defensive play, and all of a sudden I got the bounces and started scoring goals again. But I think it’s almost as fun shutting guys down as it is to score a goal myself”
Silfverberg will man the wing on a clamp-down unit with frequent linemates Kesler and Andrew Cogliano, the trio you can expect to see come over the boards when the opponent’s top scorers hit the ice.
|“We players love it, and the fans love it and get to another level too,” Silfverberg says. “Everything just gets ramped up, and this is when you’ve got to perform.” |
“I think we’re a line that’s supposed to score too, and we should have that pressure on ourselves,” Silfverberg says. “We have the talent to score goals as well as defend. That’s what we’ve done the last 30 games or so, and we’ve got to make sure to keep doing that. We can’t be satisfied just shutting guys down. We’ve got to put a little pressure on ourselves to create things and help other lines out with scoring too.”
Kesler says the key to that line is the comfort level they’ve reached through numerous games together over the past two seasons. “We talk off the ice and we know how each other plays,” Kesler says. “Once we really stuck together, we talked and kind of learned how to break down the other team. Every game we talk about what the other team’s weakness is, and we try and exploit it.”
That’s invaluable in a seven-game series when you have ample opportunity to study a single opponent, and it’s only part of the reason Silfverberg relishes what he calls, “the best time of the year.”
“We players love it, and the fans love it and get to another level too,” Silfverberg says. “Everything just gets ramped up, and this is when you’ve got to perform.”
And while his springtime (vår in Silfverberg's native Swedish) has once again been bountiful, “To say that it’s been a successful season, we’ll have to see in a couple months," he says. "Hopefully we’ll win the Cup, and then I’ll be really happy.”