You can certainly make the case that the biggest reason the Anaheim Ducks
knocked off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks
in the opening round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the play of their top line -- Ryan Getzlaf
, Corey Perry
and Bobby Ryan
The trio totaled 17 goals during Anaheim's playoff run, which ended with a disappointing seven-game loss to the Detroit Red Wings
in the Western Conference semifinals. But since then, the Ducks have added talented forwards Joffrey Lupul
and Saku Koivu
to give the club more balance up front.
"Adding Loops and Koivu to the front end, it makes our top six pretty dynamic," Getzlaf told NHL.com. "Teams are going to have to look at both lines and not just try to cover one. That kind of stuff helps everybody."
While the Ducks looked impressive at times during the playoffs, they had an inconsistent regular season that saw them struggle just to clinch a postseason berth. They finished eighth in the Western Conference with 91 points -- just two ahead of the ninth-place Minnesota Wild
That's what made their first-round ouster of San Jose even more surprising. Getzlaf admitted that it wasn't until after the 2-0 win in Game 1 at HP Pavilion that the team's confidence began to rise. Anaheim went on to take the series in six.
"It was a weird mindset because when we drew San Jose, that's a team we always battle with," Getzlaf said. "I think it was just the mindset that we had to take it a game at a time. It's the old cliché, but when you're playing a team like that, we had to try and steal a game in their building. I don't know if everybody believed it at the start, but after we took that first game, I think everybody's mindset was all in the same place."
That momentum carried over into the second round, where the Ducks gave the Red Wings all they could handle. After forcing Game 7 with a 2-1 win in Anaheim, the Ducks nearly knocked off the then-defending champs -- Detroit won 4-3 on a late goal.
It's been almost five months since that loss, but it's still fresh in Getzlaf's memory. He feels it will remain there until Anaheim kicks off the 2009-10 season against the Sharks on Oct. 3 at the Honda Center.
"It was a great series, but I don't think you're over it until you start the season again," Getzlaf admitted. "We knew we had them in our grasp, and we lost it."
Given how close they came to the Western Conference Final, the Ducks will certainly enter the season with higher expectations and a renewed sense of optimism. With such a formidable top line, they're bound to give the opposition fits on a nightly basis.
"I think expectations go up every year," Getzlaf said. "Everybody expects you to win every year, especially in our organization. From the start, it's been that way. We made moves this summer that we felt gave our team a better chance to win. We'll see how it goes now."
Just like every other team, the Ducks enter the season with question marks. The biggest comes on defense -- they traded Chris Pronger
to the Philadelphia Flyers
on the opening night of the Entry Draft. However, Getzlaf is confident that players such as James Wisniewski
and Ryan Whitney
can fill the void left by one of the League's top defensemen.
"We have guys there that can do it," Getzlaf said. "We brought (Nick) Boynton in, and (Sheldon) Brookbank's still there. It's a chance for other guys to fit into those roles. Bringing Whitney and Wisniewski and those guys in allowed us to move Prongs and maybe clear up space for a guy like Koivu to come in and give us that secondary scoring."
Another question mark for the Ducks is who will be their starting goalie? Jean-Sebastien Giguere
has been a mainstay with the club since his Conn Smythe-winning performance back in 2003, but he lost the job before the playoffs to Jonas Hiller
, who posted a 2.23 goals-against average in 13 postseason games (Giguere played only 17 minutes). While coach Randy Carlyle
will certainly be peppered with questions about the starting position during training camp, Getzlaf isn't too concerned. In the end, he feels the Ducks will only benefit by having two top-notch goaltenders.
"Distractions are only if you let them be, I guess," he said. "For us, it should be a good thing that we have a goalie controversy. To have two goalies at their level, for us players, it's great. If the media wants to fight over who's starting, that's fine. For us, it's the fact that those two can push each other to be better. It's a great situation for us."
Contact Brian Compton at firstname.lastname@example.org