The Anaheim Ducks were supposed to have their hands full with the physicality and puck-possession game of the Winnipeg Jets. Many observers predicted a long series in the Western Conference First Round.
Few, if any, predicted four straight wins. But the Ducks pulled off the only sweep of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday when they again found an extra gear against the Jets, who played the first playoff games in Winnipeg since 1996.
It wasn't as easy as it sounds. Anaheim led for 38:26 for the best-of-7 series, the least amount of time a team has led in a four-game sweep, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But the Ducks earned extra days of rest with their first sweep since 2006. They will face the winner of the series between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames.
Here are five reasons the Ducks advanced to the second round:
1. Better late than never -- The Ducks outscored the Jets 10-1 in the third period and overtime, including 5-0 in Games 1-2. It wasn't the game plan, but it fell in line with how the season has gone for the Ducks, who won an NHL single-season record 18 games in the regular season when trailing at any point in the third period and were 12-23-0 when trailing after two periods.
Anaheim was the first team in NHL history to win three straight playoff games when trailing at any point in the third period.
2. Ryan Kesler proved his worth -- Kesler had three goals and two assists for the series, with four points in the final two games. Kesler forced overtime in Game 3 with a goal with 2:14 left in regulation and scored two goals in Game 4, each time giving Anaheim a two-goal lead.
Ducks general manager Bob Murray acquired Kesler last summer to counter the center depth in the Western Conference, and so far it's been one of the smartest moves of the offseason. Kesler won 32 of 44 faceoffs in Games 1-2 and 62 of 98 (63.3 percent) in the series.
3. Depth scoring -- Coach Bruce Boudreau spoke of the need to find scoring beyond Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and he got it from all four lines. Patrick Maroon was rewarded for going to the net with a deflection goal in Game 2. Jakob Silfverberg scored the game-winning goal with 21 seconds left in Game 2 and set up Kesler's tying goal in Game 3. Fourth-line right wing Emerson Etem helped quiet the MTS Centre crowd with a goal early in Game 4.
4. Frederik Andersen -- The second-year goalie is 4-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, a considerable uptick from the 3.10 GAA and .899 save percentage in seven playoff games last season.
Andersen's steadiness was exactly what Anaheim needed after the goalie drama that unfolded last season when Andersen, John Gibson and Jonas Hiller competed for playing time. With Gibson injured, the Ducks needed a stellar series from Andersen and he delivered. His glove save on Bryan Little in Game 3 was one of the highlights.
5. Flipping the switch -- One of the subplots of the series was how Anaheim would respond after playing meaningless games down the stretch of the regular season while Winnipeg needed playoff-like urgency to get to the postseason.
Anaheim answered that question with three power-play goals in Games 1-2, as many power-play goals as it scored in the final 22 regular-season games. The Ducks were able to overcome their typical second-period lapses, maintained their composure better than the Jets, and handled the emotionally charged atmosphere of MTS Centre.