The Anaheim Ducks have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth straight season and 10th time in the past 12.
Their route this time was slightly different.
They finished last season with the No. 1-ranked power play (23.1 percent) and penalty kill (87.2 percent). This season, their power play is 23rd (17.7) but their penalty kill is fourth (84.9).
They also have been outstanding in the faceoff circle with veterans Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Antoine Vermette, and are No. 1 in the League in faceoff winning percentage (54.6).
The Ducks were seven points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division on March 1. With six games remaining, they lead San Jose atop the division by two points.
Here are five reasons the Ducks clinched:
1. Rickard Rakell
Rakell has gone from 20 goals in 72 games last season to a Ducks-leading 32 in 65 games this season. Rakell leads the League with 10 game-winning goals.
Additionally, Rakell's 0.49 goals per game is sixth among those who have played at least 20 games. His 27 even-strength goals are tied for third with Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.
Video: EDM@ANA: Rakell stickhandles, roofs home wrist shot
2. Maturing defense
How good has the young defense been this season?
Good enough to keep highly touted prospect Shea Theodore in San Diego of the American Hockey League for most of the season. Theodore appeared in 30 games with the Ducks but has been eclipsed in the second half by another promising rookie, Brandon Montour. Another young player, Josh Manson, has taken a step forward in his second full NHL season.
Another season has brought out the best in the more experienced Ducks defensemen. Cam Fowler's 11 goals are an NHL career high. Hampus Lindholm has been better in the second half after missing the start of the season because of a contract impasse.
Video: COL@ANA: Fowler wires a quick shot past Pickard
3. Bernier's impact
The Ducks acquired goalie Jonathan Bernier in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 8 for insurance purposes after Frederik Andersen was traded to the Maple Leafs on June 20.
They ended up needing Bernier even more than they had anticipated. Earlier in his NHL career, Bernier had some success backing up a top goaltender (Jonathan Quick) in Los Angeles and was brought in to back up John Gibson with the Ducks.
With Gibson sustaining a variety of injuries, Bernier has started all but one game since Feb. 20 and is 9-0-1 in his past 10 starts.
Bernier was the League's second star for the week ending March 12, going 3-0-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and a shutout, against the Blackhawks.
Video: ANA@VAN: Bernier makes big saves on Boeser and Chaput
4. Boost from break
So many teams struggled to regain form after a mandated five days off, needing a few games to scrape off the rust.
Not the Ducks. They're 10-2-1 since returning from the break March 3.
No one seemed to benefit more than Getzlaf. The Ducks center had a season-high four assists in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers on Sunday, giving him 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) in his past 12 games. Getzlaf has 66 points (14 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games, already surpassing his total of 63 points (15 goals, 50 assists) in 77 games last season.
Video: NYR@ANA: Kesler tallies PPG on tip-in from the slot
5. 200-foot warriors
The line of Andrew Cogliano, Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg has seemingly done it all for the Ducks.
They make up one of the best two-way lines in the League. They have been durable and reliable and have that intangible chemistry.
On nights when the Ducks have needed a goal, they've produced it. When others are stepping up and scoring, they've done the heavy lifting defensively.
Video: NYR@ANA: Cogliano pots a rebound off the faceoff