Here's the scary part for the 29 NHL teams that have to try to stop with Anaheim's Corey Perry
: He's two weeks away from his 24th birthday, plays on one of the NHL's most potent lines, already owns a Stanley Cup ring -- and he's still getting better.
At 6-3 and 209 pounds, Perry has the size to run over people. He also has the skill to have posted career-highs in goals (32), assists (40), points (72) and game-winning goals (8) in 2008-09, teaming with linemates Ryan Getzlaf
and Bobby Ryan
to power the Anaheim Ducks
' run to the playoffs. Perry finished the season with points in eight of his last nine games (8 goals, 5 assists, 13 points) and had 11 goals in Anaheim's last 19 games.
The Peterborough, Ontario, native has continued to produce in the postseason with 6 goals and 4 assists in 10 games, including a four-game goal-scoring streak. He has 3 goals and 3 assists in the first four games of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings
Suffice it to say he's made an impression on his opponents.
"From the top of the circle down, the way he hangs on to the puck and the way he cycles, he is a premier player," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He's scored his whole life. He's just getting better and better."
Defenseman Chris Pronger
has watched Perry evolve into the rare combination of prime-time agitator and elite goal-scorer.
"He plays with a lot of emotion," Pronger said. "He plays physical. He plays with an edge. He goes to the dirty areas. He scores in the paint. In fact, if there's a scoring chance anywhere around the net, Corey's going to be there."
Agitator? Trash talker?
"It keeps me in the game and keeps me focused," Perry said. "When you find somebody who doesn't like being talked to it gets them off their game and, hopefully, helps your team."
In one of those if words could kill situations, Perry was miked during a game early in the 2007 Western Conference Finals and was caught jabbering away at Detroit's Mikael Samuelsson
while waiting for a faceoff.
"You're going to get yours," Perry said. "And tell your friend Zetterberg, he's going to get his, too."
Most opponents know Perry for being mouthy and confrontational in games -- but he is painfully quiet everywhere else.
"I'm a shy guy," Perry said. "It's just a switch that flips on as soon as I put my equipment on and my blades touch the ice. I'm a different person. I think it comes from me wanting to win so bad that I get in a game and -— I don't know -— maybe my emotions take over."
Said Samuelsson, "I remember him saying it, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. Players are always saying things, trying to get under your skin. But when I got home from that game, some friends were asking about it. They said it was on YouTube already. Amazing, isn't it? Anything else about that ... no comment."
Brash. Opinionated. Tough as nails. But Perry admits he has to pinch himself once in a while to see if all his good fortune is real. The former London Knights center is a Memorial Cup winner, world junior champion and Stanley Cup winner.
He'll do anything it takes to get the job done ... whether that means getting in anyone's face with his hard-driving, gritty style of play. But he knows better than to start a fight without good reason. His dad, Geoff, a policeman for the Ontario Provincial Police, wouldn't permit such conduct in their home.
Perry's dream actually goes back a little further. He remembers sitting in front of a TV watching hockey with a mini-stick in his hand when he was only 3. He turned to his mom, Nancy, and said, "One day I'm going to play for you on TV, mom."
His dream went one big step better when the Ducks beat Ottawa in 2007 to win the Stanley Cup.
"When that buzzer went off at the end of Game 5, there was no greater feeling than throwing my gloves in the air knowing I was going to get a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup over my head," Perry said in preparation for Game 5 Sunday in Detroit. "The world juniors and Memorial Cup in the same year and then two years later a Stanley Cup. It's everything I thought it would be and more. But the competitor in you wants to win it again ... and that's what's on our minds right now.
"It's all about working hard to achieve your goals. I grew up listening to my dad tell me to never go onto the ice and not play all-out. That thought still pops into my mind often. My goal is to be the best player I can at all times."
Geoff Perry coached Corey until he was 8, a year when he scored 205 goals in 60 games and was moved up to play with 10- and 11-year-olds the following season. If Geoff's words of desire and dedication weren't enough, Corey heard the same mantra in London, where former NHL power forwards Dale and Mark Hunter
run the team there and never let a kid get through their organization without teaching them how hard they have to work to accomplish anything in life.
"I remember Dale Hunter
telling me that Corey was about 160 pounds when he arrived in London," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
told me. "Dale said you can always ask for more from Corey and he'll always deliver for you."
Perry is like a rink rat. He's done whatever it took to develop into an NHLer. There's no fear in his game. Corey is one of those rare offensive talents who can score goals when seemingly no opening exists. He has developed the power of a linebacker along with the touch of a safecracker.
He added security last summer, when he signed a five-year, $26.63 million deal. But there's no worry that Perry will relax -- not when you ask him about the promise he made to his mother so close to Mother's Day.
"It finally came true," he said. "Now, hopefully, I can make another dream come true."