With Teemu Selanne retiring, the Ducks aim to help him go out on top with another Stanley Cup victory.
by Christopher Wenrich
The opening round playoff series between the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars pits two teams against one another that have each won one Stanley Cup. Led by superstar winger, Teemu Selanne. and goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere, the then-”Mighty Ducks” won the Lord Stanley’s Cup in the 2006-2007 season. Ironically, both players are set to retire after this post-season. The Stars hoisted the best trophy in sports in 1999, with a star-studded roster that included Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Ed Belfour. Both teams also lost finals to the New Jersey Devils in 2000 (Ducks) and 2003 (Stars).
The Ducks may no longer be known as the Mighty Ducks, but they were plenty mighty this season, as they scored the most goals in the National Hockey League (263) and finished one point behind Boston for the league’s best record. Selanne, at 43 years of age, will finish his NHL career with 684 goals, 773 assists and 1,457 regular season points. Selanne’s post-season career isn’t bad either, with 82 points in 118 games. The veteran star finished the 2013-2014 season with only 27 points in 64 games. However, when he brought home the Olympic bronze medal for his native Finland, he demonstrated he could still play the game at a high level.
263 goals for (1st)
203 goals against (9th)
16.0 PP% (22nd)
82.2 PK% (13th)
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led the Ducks in scoring, as the Ducks generated an NHL-best 263 goals. Getzlaf registered 31 goals and 87 points in 77 games. Perry scored 43 goals and 82 points in 81 games. Oddly, the NHL’s highest-scoring team had no other players reach the 50-point mark this season. Nick Bonino amassed 49 points in 77 games while defenseman Cam Fowler produced 36 points in 70 games. Andrew Cogliano netted 40-plus points for the first time since his 2007-2008 rookie season.
Defensemen usually need more seasoning than forwards before they are NHL-ready. However, rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm was impressive this season, scoring 30 points in 78 games. More importantly, his +29 rating was second on the Ducks (trailing Perry’s +32). Plus/minus can be a very misleading stat, as a player’s plus/minus rating is the byproduct of the team he plays for. However, a rookie defenseman with a plus/minus record that is second-best on an NHL team is quite impressive.
While the Ducks’ 22nd-ranked power play may not sound like much, they led the NHL in goals (263) and five-on-five goals (192). The Ducks may rely on their top line to do most of the scoring, but they are a crisp passing team that generates scoring chances with each of their lines.
Jonas Hiller had a strong season in goal, posting a 29-13-7 record with a 2.48 GAA, .911 SV% and five shutouts. As the regular season faded, Frederik Andersen outplayed Hiller, causing speculation that he might steal the starting gig from Hiller in the playoffs. In 28 games with the Ducks, Hiller was 20-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA, .923 SV% and no shutouts. Hiller likely will not be the starter when the playoffs begin, with Andersen or John Gibson making the start. Hiller cannot be amused by his role reversal from number one goaltender to last resort.
231 goals for (10th)
223 goals against (17th)
15.9 PP% (23rd)
81.4 PK% (21st)
During the course of an NHL season, a team’s fans would be thrilled to see one young star have a breakout season. The Stars were doubly blessed as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn both emerged as impact players this season. The 22-year-old Seguin set career-bests in goals (37), assists (47), and points (84), in 80 games this season. The 24-year-old Benn set career-bests in goals (34), assists (45), and points (79), in 81 games. Seguin is an electrifying skater who can make plays at top speed and defeat defenders in one-on-one battles. His ability to create something out of nothing with his skating and puck handling is remarkable. He and Benn complement one another greatly on the ice.
Like the Ducks, the Stars rely on their top line to do perhaps too much of the scoring. Aside from Seguin (84 points), and Benn (79 points), defenseman Alex Goligoski (42 points), was the only other Star to reach 40 points. Alex Chiasson (35 points) and Valeri Nichushkin (34 points) should not be expected to outplay the Ducks’ checking-line veterans. If Sergei Gonchar finds his game, he and Goligoski may help the Stars generate the goals needed to upset the Ducks.
Kari Lehtonen was 33-20-10 this season with a 2.41 GAA, .919 SV% and five shutouts. Lehtonen has the talent to be one of the best goalies in the NHL and is capable of stealing a series, but he has a young team in front of him that can affect his consistency. Should Lehtonen suffer an injury or struggle, backup Tim Thomas is capable of winning games in goal.
The Stars might have the edge in goal simply because there is no goalie controversy in Dallas, but the Ducks have the better defense. The Stars’ top line and the Ducks’ top line may be a push (if not an edge to the Ducks), but the Ducks’ checking-line veterans will likely make the difference in this series. Barring Herculean efforts by Lehtonen or Thomas in goal, the Ducks should dispose of the Stars without too much difficulty.
Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment. Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).