When preseason prediction time came around after the NHL haphazardly patched the new Collective Bargaining Agreement together, I really wanted to place the Anaheim Ducks in the playoff mix. My brain wouldn't let me do it, though.
Ultimately, we watch sports for fun, and not nearly enough teams in this league exactly embrace the fact that they’re in the entertainment business. (Some might not watch a typical Phoenix Coyotes-Minnesota Wild game unless their eyes were forced open like Alex’s in “A Clockwork Orange.”) The Ducks might not be the most balanced squad. They certainly don’t have the kind of defense that, on paper, wins divisions - let alone championships. Management might even wish they could be bland and boring like far too many of their peers.
Instead, they’re fun to watch when things are going even remotely well, and their coach Bruce Boudreau showed how fun (among other f-words involved) he could be during HBO’s 24/7 coverage of the 2011 Winter Classic.
Even so, all that fun didn’t really indicate that it would amount to much more than a mess at the Honda Center most nights. After all, they gave up one of their few difference-making defensemen (Lubomir Visnovsky, who might actually debut for the New York Islanders this week) for a second-rounder in the offseason. Unless you’re a serious Sheldon Souray acolyte, it seemed like an already-weak group got worse. They also don’t seem have much beyond their big stud forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne, either.
Yet as of Tuesday, the Ducks are just two points behind the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division - and with one fewer game played. Their 13 points only leaves them three behind the Chicago Blackhawks (who've also played nine games to Anaheim's eight). The Ducks just handed San Jose their first regulation loss of the season last night, and amazingly, they did it mostly with defense.
Coming up, a few fantasy stories from the Ducks worth following, but first note that you can purchase the Season Pass by clicking here and that it’s not too late to join and play Yahoo! hockey.
It’s not that shocking to see Selanne tied atop team scoring with nine points, but his fellow aging Finn Saku Koivu being there with him is. So can the former Montreal Canadiens captain maintain something close to this point-per-game (and a little more) pace?
I’m going to venture a fairly confident “No.” He’s fallen in the 40-50 point range all during his time in Anaheim, with his most recent great season being his 75-point run in 2006-07 with Montreal. That marks a career-high and that wasn't even a point-per-game. He also only has six shots on goal, so the bounces are likely to stop going his way in such a dramatic fashion.
Riding shotgun alongside Teemu might at least keep him semi-relevant, though.
It was fitting that Corey Perry managed a mere assist during the Ducks’ wild 7-4 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. You’d think that with everyone going hog wild on this team, the franchise’s typical top fantasy pick would be getting in the slop more boisterously than anyone else. Instead, he has a measly goal (and a more acceptable four assists) in eight games.
He’ll snap out of it, but I was expecting more from a guy who could earn himself a bank vault’s worth of money with a strong contract year. The most worrisome stat, for me, is that he has just 19 shots. This is a guy who regularly falls just short of 300 SOG per game, so even if his paltry 5.3 shooting percentage improves, he also needs to fire more rubber at the net.
Like Phil Kessel, he's a good buy-low trade candidate, however.
FASTHLY BECOMING RELEVANT
At 30 years old, it’s not like Viktor Fasth should be too overwhelmed by the “rookie” experience. He made a gigantic save on Patrick Marleau during a rare 5-on-3 shorthanded semi-breakaway, but he’s been making plenty of saves beyond that. Here are his stats versus incumbent Jonas Hiller’s numbers:
Fasth: 3 GP, 3-0-0, 1.30 GAA, .946 save percentage
Hiller: 5 GP, 3-1-1, 3.54 GAA, .871 save percentage
With those numbers in mind, Boudreau would have to be skipping-ice-cream-treats crazy not to give Fasth more opportunities. Obviously, these are small sample sizes, yet it’s impossible to deny the fact that the differences are stark so far. Considering the fact that the Ducks are currently scoring at a great clip, it doesn’t hurt to see if there’s a new sheriff in net.
And you might want to at least keep Fasth on your radar.
More fantasy hockey fun after the jump.