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Ducks' Perry focused on playoffs, not MVP race

by Brian Hedger
Ryan Getzlaf's voice barely was audible above the whine of a nearby Zamboni, but his message still got through to Anaheim Ducks teammate Corey Perry.
Perry was answering questions from a small contingent of reporters about his remarkable season following a light practice last Friday, and Getzlaf wasn't about to let a prime opportunity to razz his top-line buddy pass.
"Come on Perrs, let's go!" he shouted. "You don't need to talk so much about your season! Just say, 'I owe it all to my linemates! I've only scored 7 goals this year … with 35 tap-ins!'"
The stone-faced Perry smiled slightly. Then the next night he scored both Anaheim goals in the third period of a 2-1 road win against the Chicago Blackhawks -- including, yes, a gorgeous "tap-in" off a perfect feed from Getzlaf.

So make it eight goals and 36 "tap-ins," then, for a League-leading 44. Impressive any way you look at it.
The goals were Perry's 12th and 13th in March, not to mention his 16th and 17th points this month -- both figures coming in a span of 13 games. Perry may have headed for the team bus with Getzlaf shortly after that one-liner at practice, but figuratively speaking he is headed toward something much bigger -- especially if his torrid scoring pace continues.
Perry has entered the race for the Hart Trophy, and is in a sprint to the finish with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for leading the NHL in goals.
The main reasons for his stellar output?  Aside from all those "tap-ins"?
In a nutshell, Perry says it revolves around increased ice time and increased confidence with every shot he takes.
"You try to grow as a player every year and you try to get better every year and learn from what you took in the year before," said Perry, who still has two games in March to tie or pass Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for most goals in a month this season (14). "I'm kind of playing a different role, with different ice time, more ice time and playing in key situations. Those things are helping my confidence, and it's starting to grow."
However, Perry is trying hard to keep the focus solely on the Ducks' chase for a playoff spot in the clogged Western Conference standings. They enter Monday's home game against the Colorado Avalanche (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA) in seventh place, one point ahead of eighth-place Chicago and two ahead of ninth-place Calgary.
However, the more he scores, the more Perry's case for individual accolades mounts. The numbers tell quite a tale.
Perry's 44 goals not only lead the League, but he's also tied for first in game-winners (10) with Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. Perry also ranks fifth in points (85) and is tied for fourth in power-play goals (12).

He has goals in five straight games and eight of his last nine, with a total of 13 in those nine games.
It doesn't end there. Not even close.
Perry is tied for second among all NHL forwards in average ice time per game (22:03) and leads the League in third-period goals (20) and third period-plus-overtime goals (22).
Further, 23 of Perry's goals either have tied a game or put Anaheim ahead. Those 23 goals have come in 20 games, and the Ducks are 13-4-3 in those games. He's also just the third NHL player since the 2001-02 season to log more than 40 goals and 100 penalty minutes in a season.
Is there any wonder why he's suddenly being talked about as a Hart Trophy frontrunner?
Perry refuses to campaign for awards, though. Not verbally, anyway.
"At the end of the day, in the summer they might be important," he said. "Obviously you think about it, but we're here for a job and that's (to earn) two points every night. If things happen the way they happen (and awards come), then great. But if it doesn't happen and we're still in the playoffs -- that's all I care about."
It's hard to get him to say otherwise.
As the regular-season winds down, Perry is locked into getting the Ducks in the playoffs -- where anything can happen, as the Philadelphia Flyers proved last season by advancing to the Stanley Cup Final as the Eastern Conference's seventh-seeded team.
Compared to that, Perry said things like the Hart or Richard trophies take a big backseat.
"I haven't even thought about it at all," said Perry. "In the last week or so people have started to talk about it, but I mean, it's not really anything I can control. I just go out and play my game and help the team win. That's where my focus is."
That's exactly where Ducks coach Randy Carlyle hopes it stays, too.
The last thing Anaheim needs with just seven games left is a distraction for its leading scorer, but that shouldn't happen with the driven Perry -- who showed his true skill level when long-time linemate Getzlaf missed 14 games after being hit in the face by a puck Dec. 28.
Instead of disappearing, as some suspected he'd do, Perry just kept on producing. That more than anything might be the best indicator of Perry's development as a player in his sixth NHL season.

"I haven't even thought about it at all. In the last week or so people have started to talk about it, but I mean, it's not really anything I can control. I just go out and play my game and help the team win. That's where my focus is."
-- Corey Perry

"There were probably (people who) said when Ryan Getzlaf got hurt, 'What's Corey Perry going to be able to do?'" Carlyle said. "They've been two peas in a pod for such a long period of time as professionals, but Corey's been able to take that area of his game to that next level. He's played with numerous centers and he's played in different situations."
Penalty killing is one of those new situations, and once again the numbers speak for themselves. Perry has scored 3 shorthanded goals thus far, which is a career high and tied a team record.
Getzlaf, meanwhile, said the added defensive responsibility is another reason for Perry's surge this season.
"He's really rounded out his game," said Getzlaf, who along with Perry and Bobby Ryan form one of the League's best lines. "He's started penalty killing. It helps a player out in more ways than people know. We were getting to the point last year and in years before when he wouldn't play for a long time -- and that's not easy to do when you're trying to stay in the flow of the game."
That's not an issue now. In fact, it's gone the other way. Getzlaf and Perry are getting so much ice time that some are worried they might be burning themselves out just trying to get into the playoffs. Like the talk about awards, Perry isn't paying attention to it.
"Lately we've been playing a few minutes, but it's nothing new," he said after logging 25:13 against Chicago on Saturday. "We're ready to play every night and whatever ice time we get, we go out and work hard. I just go out and do my thing. I just go out and play hockey. It's just a matter of trying to win as a team every night. That's our mindset around here."
As for those personal accomplishments? Let's just say that Perry is more than happy to leave that talk to the media -- and there's plenty to talk about.
Aside from all the numbers, Perry also is vying to become just the second Ducks player to lead the NHL in goals. Teemu Selanne tied Peter Bondra with 52 in 1997-98 and led the League outright in 1998-99 with 47. And no Anaheim player ever has won the Hart Trophy; Selanne and Paul Kariya are the club's lone two finalists.
Perry's case to join that elite group seemingly is growing by the game -- which is why Perry is relieved his team is in such an intense battle just to qualify for the postseason. It's a great excuse to shove all that he's doing individually to the side.
"Two points is crucial every night and that's where our focus is right now," Perry said. "You're not looking at personal accomplishments. If they happen, they happen. It's playoff hockey for us right now and that's also where we're trying to get to."
One greasy "tap-in" at a time.
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