By Adam Brady
A sweaty Jakob Silfverberg
rested in front of his locker following today’s morning skate, patiently welcoming reporter after reporter, each of whom wanted to get a few minutes of his time. It’s the kind of thing you have to get used to when you’ve been one of the Ducks’ best players in this postseason and a major reason Anaheim stands on the brink of eliminating the Calgary Flames in tonight’s Game 5.
The 24-year-old Silfverberg has three goals and six assists in the Ducks’ eight postseason games so far. But it’s the timeliness of those goals – not to mention what the Swedish winger has contributed at both ends of the ice – that has been invaluable for Anaheim in these playoffs.
“The reason he plays all the time, an awful lot, and he kills penalties and everything is because he’s so strong in the two-way game,” says Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “His positioning, everything, is always spot on. That’s true in the case of a lot of Swedish players, but his defensive ability has always been there.”
That’s the kind of thing coaches love, but what Ducks fans have really noticed from the low-key Silfverberg are a couple goals that have been crucial in these playoffs. The first was a dramatic game-winner with 21 seconds left in Game 2 of the First Round vs. Winnipeg. The latest came two nights ago in Game 4 at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, a shot from the right wing that found the net less than four minutes into the game and noticeably quieted an amped-up crowd.
|“I feel way more confident out there, and at the same time I have that trust from Bruce. I feel like I want the puck more on the ice and I feel like I can make plays out there. It’s not a matter of, as soon as I get it, I want to get rid of it. I want to try and hold onto it. That gets me more involved in the game.” |
“It was a big goal for us,” Silfverberg says. “It was a clean breakout and Kes [linemate Ryan Kesler] got the puck to me. I shot it and I think it tipped a little off the d-man’s stick and changed the angle a little bit. That caught [Calgary goalie Karri] Ramo off guard and it went in short side. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Silfverberg was named First Star in the 4-2 Anaheim victory, since he potted that goal and set up another big one just over a minute into the third period. With the Ducks on the power play, Silfverberg’s shot from almost the same spot on the right wing caromed off Ramo’s leg pad right to Matt Beleskey, who had an open net to punch it home.
“That was kind of a fluky goal,” Silfverberg admits. “I tried to shoot the puck hard short side, but I somehow missed the puck a little bit. I kind of hit the top of the puck and it turned into a perfect shot off the pad and bounced straight out to Beleskey.
“You keep shooting the puck and good things will happen, and that was the case there.”
Silfverberg has been shooting the puck plenty this postseason (his 19 shots are one short of second on the team), which he says is part of the growing confidence in his own game.
“I feel way more confident out there, and at the same time I have that trust from Bruce,” Silfverberg says. “I get to see a lot of ice time. I feel like I want the puck more on the ice and I feel like I can make plays out there. It’s not a matter of, as soon as I get it, I want to get rid of it. I want to try and hold onto it. That gets me more involved in the game.”
While Silfverberg’s defensive prowess has never been questioned, his offensive game went through some dry spells this season, one in which he had a modest 13 goals and 26 assists in 81 games. (Although he was nearly automatic in the shootout, converting on 9 of 13 this season thanks to a wicked wrist shot.) The goal-scoring is something Ducks fans would like to see more of, especially since Silfverberg came to Anaheim two summers ago in a trade with Ottawa that saw four-time 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan shipped to the Senators.
“No matter how you look at it, you always want to help the team by scoring goals and points,” says Silfverberg, who missed seven weeks in his first season in Anaheim with a broken hand. “I had a few stretches during the season where I didn’t score as much. You try not to get frustrated, but it’s always somewhere in your head. You just want to get the puck in the net. At the same time, I try to stay positive and I knew I was doing a lot of good things defensively.”
That defensive game makes Silfverberg a good fit on a standout second line with Kesler and Beleskey that has often been matched against opponents’ top forwards.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s tough not to have fun during this. I think everyone is enjoying it, but we’ve got to make sure to keep going and not get too satisfied. If we do that, we’ll have a fun couple of weeks ahead of us."
“He’s just a smart player,” Kesler told reporters about Silfverberg earlier in this series. “We read off each other well. It’s been unbelievable for him to play the way he’s playing right now. He’s been one of the leaders on this team. He has definitely raised his game.”
Part of that could be seen in that goal in Game 2 vs. Winnipeg that propelled Anaheim to a sweep of that series. With time ticking down in regulation and overtime seemingly ensuing, Silfverberg beat Jets center Bryan Little to a dumped puck behind the Winnipeg extended goal line, skated out to the bottom of the left wing circle and sniped a wrist shot inside the near post, nearly blowing the roof off Honda Center.
It was one shining moment in a standout postseason that Silfverberg hopes will continue much longer.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s tough not to have fun during this,” he said with Game 5 vs. Calgary a mere eight hours away. “I think our record is 7-1, and obviously that’s superb. I think everyone is enjoying it, but we’ve got to make sure to keep going and not get too satisfied.
“If we do that, we’ll have a fun couple of weeks ahead of us."