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Five reasons Ducks advanced to Western Final

by Curtis Zupke /

The last time the Anaheim Ducks made it this far, Bruce Boudreau hadn't yet coached a game in the NHL and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were baby-faced second-line forwards.

For the first time since it won the Stanley Cup in 2007, Anaheim will play in the Western Conference Final after it eliminated the Calgary Flames in Game 5 of the second round on Sunday.

It has come together impressively and efficiently for Anaheim to set up a showcase series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Boudreau advanced to a conference final for the first time, and Getzlaf and Perry lead a team that is 8-1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It hasn't been easy, though: Six of the Ducks' eight wins came after Anaheim trailed at any point in the game.

"They're determined," Boudreau said. "We talked about it before the game [Sunday]. We're committed and we're determined. Not to say that Chicago is not committed or determined, and they're going to prove to be as tough a foe as you could possibly get. But at the same time … these guys have had a chance all year, that's why our third-period record is so good and [our] one-goal situations are so good. When they get that opportunity, they dig deep."

Here are five reasons the Ducks advanced:

1. They were the better closers -- The main storyline against Calgary was how the series would play out between two of the NHL's best third-period comeback teams.

It wasn't really close.

The Ducks outscored the Flames, 7-2, in the third, including 1-0 in series-clinching Game 5. That  represented Anaheim's fourth win in the playoffs when trailing after two periods (4-0).

The Ducks have outscored opponents 16-3 in the third period in the playoffs. Their 16 goals and plus-13 differential lead the NHL; no other team is better than plus-4.

2. Getzlaf and Perry led the way -- Anaheim is balanced offensively, but it starts with its two stars, who combined for five goals and 11 assists in five games.

For the second straight series, they set the tone in Game 1 with four-point games each. Perry capped it with the series-clinching goal in overtime (the first of his NHL career) after he returned from a dangerous-looking leg injury. Perry tied Getzlaf and defenseman Scott Niedermayer for second on the Ducks' playoff game-winning goal list with five.

3. Special teams -- A power play that was dormant most of the season has come alive in the playoffs. Anaheim, which ranked 28th in the regular season, went 6-for-18 in the series and is 9-for-29 in the postseason (31 percent). Anaheim scored two power-play goals against Calgary three times in the series after it did so six times in the regular season and none in its last 39 regular-season games.

Anaheim's penalty-kill allowed two goals in the series. Its kill of a 56-second 5-on-3 Calgary power play in Game 4 was crucial.

4. Ryan Kesler -- His statistics aren't as sexy as Getzlaf's or Perry's, but those who watched the series saw all the little things Kesler does that are invaluable in the playoffs. He won 72 of 114 faceoffs (63.1 percent), including 18 of 24 in Game 3.

Playing mostly with Matt Beleskey and Jakob Silfverberg, Kesler's line often faced the opposition's top line and was a general thorn in its side in the offensive zone. Kesler is on a four-game point streak, his longest in the playoffs since a six-game streak for the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

5. Experience -- There was a frequent theme for each team throughout the series: Anaheim talked about how it learned from last season's playoff failure, and Calgary coach Bob Hartley mentioned how much of a learning experience this was for his team.

It showed from the start; Anaheim outscored Calgary 9-1 in Games 1-2 and carried through in a tight, come-from-behind overtime win in Game 5.

The Ducks have three players from their 2007 Stanley Cup-winning team (Getzlaf, Perry and defenseman Francois Beauchemin), and all their young players seem more determined after they went through tough series losses each of the past two seasons. It was too much for gutty-but-young Calgary.

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