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Dynamic duo, depth key Ducks' run to playoff berth

by Jon Lane

During 20 years of existence, the Anaheim Ducks have won a Stanley Cup and two conference championships.

In this anniversary season, the Ducks clinched their 10th playoff berth and seventh in the past nine campaigns. And they did it by setting new franchise standards.

Anaheim is off to its finest start through 71 games (46-18-7, 99 points) to best the mark of 42-17-12 set in 2006-07, the season it won the Stanley Cup. The Ducks have also scored the most goals (226) at this stage of the season in club history and is two wins from matching the franchise record for wins in a single season (also in 2006-07).

In addition, the Ducks are poised to become the fastest team in club history to reach 100 points (75 games in 2006-07) and surged to the top of the NHL standings this season aided a 20-0-2 start at Honda Center.

The big question in Anaheim is whether regular-season accolades will translate into postseason glory. Since the NHL Trade Deadline, the Ducks have lost six of nine games to lose their grip on first place in the Pacific Division and the race for the Presidents' Trophy. Each of those goals, however, remain attainable with the Ducks in a stretch of nine straight games against teams currently out of playoff position that started with a 6-2 drubbing Sunday of the Florida Panthers.

Anaheim has 11 games to determine its postseason seeding and set itself up for some unfinished business. Last season the Ducks finished 30-12-6 to win the second division title in franchise history, but lost to the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the first round.

Here are five reasons why the Ducks clinched their playoff spot, and why their postseason journey this year may last a little longer:

1. Dynamic Duo

The Ducks are second in the League in goals per game (3.18). Leading the way are two players who warrant consideration for the Hart Trophy.

Corey Perry
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 72
SOG: 245 | +/-: 29
Center Ryan Getzlaf and wing Corey Perry is the NHL's most productive pair this season (49 team goals where each has recorded a point). Getzlaf (30 goals and 79 points) is second in scoring, tied for third in even-strength goals (26) and has 63 points (24 goals, 39 assists) in his past 51 games. That includes a 14-game point streak that matched the longest in the NHL since 2012 (Pascal Dupuis).

Perry's 37 goals matches his 2011-12 total, which was the second best of his career to this point. He leads the League with 30 even-strength goals and his nine game winners are tied for the League lead. The duo has also had provided a spark to 43-year-old Teemu Selanne's game. Since joining the Ducks' top line March 14, Selanne has two goals and two assists in four games.

2. Forward depth

The Ducks are one of the deepest teams in the League at the forward position. All but one of their centers has scored at least 15 goals. There is so much talent on the wings that Dustin Penner (32 points in 49 games) was traded before the deadline and top prospects Emerson Etem and Rikard Rakell have struggled to get into the lineup.

Mathieu Perreault, acquired from the Washington Capitals for forward John Mitchell and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, has set a career high in points (35) and his 15 goals are one away from his career best. Nick Bonino is enjoying a breakout season with 17 goals and 44 points. Andrew Cogliano has a career-best 20 goals.

Getzlaf and Perry have been dominant, but the supporting cast has helped make the Ducks an elite offensive team as well.

3. Goaltending

The Ducks organization is so deep at the goaltending position that Viktor Fasth, who had a great rookie season in 2012-13, became expendable and was traded to the Edmonton Oilers one day before the deadline. Jonas Hiller's 14 consecutive wins from Dec. 6-Jan. 12 matched the second-longest streak in a single season. He's 28-11-6 overall, 19-7-2 in his past 27 games and tied for 10th in wins.

Rookie Frederik Andersen opened his NHL career on a six-game winning streak and won nine of his first 10 while allowing no more than three goals in any of them. He leads all rookie goalies in wins (16) and save percentage (.924), and is tied for first in goals-against average (2.26) with a minimum of 20 appearances.

Anaheim also has one of the elite prospects at the position in John Gibson waiting for his chance.

4. Breakout defensemen

Hampus Lindholm
Defense - ANA
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 26
SOG: 109 | +/-: 29
The Ducks began the season without Sheldon Souray and Luca Sbisa, and with Francois Beauchemin coming off an ACL injury. That's half of the team's regular defense corps from 2012-13.

Before spraining his MCL, Cam Fowler was putting together his finest season with 36 points and a plus-15 rating while competing for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen also had strong rookie campaigns to improve the team's depth at the position. The Ducks' first pick (No. 6) in the 2012 Draft, Lindholm has five goals, 26 points and is 10th among rookies in ice time (19:24). Vatanen has six goals and 15 points in 42 games and played well for Finland in Sochi.

Anaheim is eighth in the League in goals against (2.45 per game), and the team's trio of young defensemen have played a large role in that.

5. Home sweet home

Anaheim's 15-3-1 start to the regular season was excellent, but their play at home to begin 2013-14 put the Ducks among the great teams in League history. The Ducks became the fifth team since 1973-74 to record at least one point in each of its first 20 home games.

With a 9-1 win Jan. 15 against the Vancouver Canucks, the Ducks tied the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks for the third-longest streak of home games with at least one point in League history to start a season. That Sharks team also went 20-0-2. The run came to an end with a 3-2 loss Jan. 21 to the Winnipeg Jets.


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