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Pass-first Getzlaf setting Ducks up for success

by Corey Masisak / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- When Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was asked Friday about his coaches wishing he would shoot more sometimes, he didn't need to hear the rest of the question.

"Sometimes?" he responded.

Getzlaf is one of the game's premier players. He is a prototype for what a franchise player can be, from his size and ability on the ice to how he represents the organization off it.

He also is having an incredible 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping the Ducks get within six victories of a championship and earning praise as a Conn Smythe Trophy contender. The Ducks have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. Game 4 will be played Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

All Getzlaf's success, however, doesn't mean there isn't room for some constructive criticism.

"As a set-up man he's right up there with the best in the world," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We all want him to shoot more. As you saw in Game 2, when he came down the wing, hit the crossbar, his shot is so good. At the same time, when he got the second assist [Thursday], he pulled it like he was going to shoot it. [Blackhawks goalie Corey] Crawford has to honor that fact that a great shot could be coming. That's what makes him a great passer. He slips it over to [Simon Despres], he puts it in the net. You have to honor the fact that if he does shoot it's a great shot. He's just really good at playing off and faking it and giving it to other people.

"Believe me, as coaches there's times during the course of the year we could wring his neck because he doesn't shoot it."

Getzlaf always has been a pass-first center. He scored a career-high 31 goals last season but he has scored at about the same rate in every other season of his career save for 2011-12, when he shot 5.9 percent and had 11 goals. He has converted 12.4 percent of his shots into goals in the regular season and 11.6 percent in the playoffs. A player who consistently can shoot that high a percentage probably should shoot more, but it is a product of his partnership with longtime linemate Corey Perry and how they work so well together.

"There's games where I think I have opportunities to shoot that I don't," Getzlaf said. "Sometimes I kick myself for it. Most of the time I try and go out there and execute what I feel is the best fit for that play. Game 2 I think I had 14 attempts at the net, which is unheard of for me. It was a little uncomfortable. Perry gave me hell after the game. But that's just the way the relationship works.

"I'm not going to shoot a whole ton but I'll try to take my opportunities when they're there. There's always going to be people telling me to shoot more. I accepted that after my first year in the League."

Getzlaf has scored two goals this postseason, but he is shooting at his normal volume. He has 34 shots on goal in 12 games, but like 2011-12, he's converting a poor percentage (5.9 percent).

For a player with Getzlaf's track record, bad luck almost certainly is a factor. It also hasn't mattered much.

Ryan Getzlaf
Center - ANA
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 16
SOG: 34 | +/-: 9
Anaheim is 10-2 this postseason, and Getzlaf has a playoff-leading 14 assists. He has five more than any player entering Friday despite playing fewer games than the other teams in the final four.

Getzlaf, Perry and Patrick Maroon have formed a dominant line. It would be tough for any team to construct a line of similar size to match against the three power forwards, but fielding three players at that size who can match the world-class skills of Getzlaf and Perry is another matter.

"I'm surrounded with players that put the puck in the net. It's kind of hard for me to argue with making passes," Getzlaf said. "There are times where I overpass the puck a little bit. Like I said, those are things that I address as the series goes on, games go on. It doesn't change my mindset on the ice at all. I try to go out and do what I feel is best at that time. Sometimes it works and everybody's happy. If it doesn't work everybody thinks I made a bad play."

Getzlaf was part of the supporting cast when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, but this has been his team for several years now. He's won two Olympic gold medals with Canada and been a Hart Trophy finalist, but it seems like he's often just off the edge in a discussion of the best players in the NHL.

When the Los Angeles Kings rose to the top of the NHL, Anze Kopitar wedged his way into that conversation at the top with the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby and the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews. It's possible a Conn Smythe-type postseason will earn Getzlaf more consideration for that group.

"He does everything. He's a warrior," Maroon said of Getzlaf. "Everyone talks about him not scoring but he makes plays. He makes outstanding plays and that's what we need. He's a guy who is going to carry us all the way through."

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