DETROIT – What a start for the Anaheim Ducks.
These Ducks missed the playoffs last season, but now they’re flying high after assembling one of the best teams in the Western Conference with several key off-season moves.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock watched the Ducks play to a shoot-out loss at Chicago this week. Despite the loss, Babcock was astonished by the improvements made by Pacific Division leaders.
“I was impressed by their group the other night,” said Babcock, who coached the Ducks from 2003-04. “Obviously, I’m a big fan of some of their players, but I like what they’ve done on their back-end. They’re way quicker.”
The Ducks have benefited from several off-season acquisitions, including defensemen Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen, along with third-line forward Daniel Winnik.
Besides the usual suspects – Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, the Ducks are getting balanced scoring from their bottom six, which is why they’re off to the league’s second-best start with a 9-2-1 record. The Ducks are the only team with eight different skaters with at least four goals each. The third line of Winnik, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano have combined for 11 goals, and caught Babcock’s attention.
“They have stars with some real good players, and Selenne is as good as he’s ever played,” Babcock said. “And obviously, Getzlaf and Perry and the Ryan kid is real good. But I think when you put Koivu and Cogliano on the third line – and I don’t know who the other guy is (Winnik) – they just seem like a deeper team. … Their fourth line center, who’s on the power play, (Nick Bonino), I mean, he looks like a real player, too.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Goalie - ANA
GAA: 1.74 | SVP: 0.933
G VIKTOR FASTH – Likely the biggest surprise of this NHL season, goalie Viktor Fasth, a 30-year-old who’s playing his first NHL season, has the Ducks flying high with a 6-0-0 record, an 1.74 goals-against average and a shutout.
“He looked excellent the other night,” Babcock said. “What I liked about him is that in traffic he found the puck every time. He didn’t seem to be in a panic to find it. He was relaxed, and there and square. He looked like a goaltender to me.”
A two-time Honken Trophy winner as the top goalie in the Swedish Elite League, Fasth has allowed just 12 goals in relief of starter Jonas Hiller, who has a lower body injury.
Season Series: 0-0-0
2011-12 Season Series: 3-1-0
All-Time Series Season: 46-17-7-2
Anaheim’s 2011-12 Season Record: 34-36-12
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Ryan Getzlaf – 3 Assists in 4 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Henrik Zetterberg – 2 Goals, 1 Assists in 4 Games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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