NHL Playoffs 2014: Round 1 Preview – Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars
SERIES BEGINS: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16
PUCK DROP: 10:00pm EST (03:00am GMT) IN ANAHEIM
BY THE NUMBERS
| 266 / 209
|235 / 228
|LAST 10 GAMES||7-2-1||6-4-0|
|TOP POINT SCORER||87 PTS
|TOP GOAL SCORER||43 G
| 37 G
|TOTAL 5v5 SV%||92.5%
(12th in NHL)
(19th in NHL)
ANAHEIM DUCKS SEASON LOWDOWN:
The Ducks started strong and stayed that way, winning the Western Conference and falling one point short of the Boston Bruins in the President’s Trophy race. Led by high-scoring forwards Ryan Getzlaf (whose 87 points ranked behind only Sidney Crosby’s stunning 104) and Corey Perry (whose 43 goals ranked behind only Alexander Ovechkin’s stunning 51), Anaheim led the league in scoring.
That potency made up for the very average goaltending of starter Jonas Hiller, who really collapsed as the season drew to a close.
That’s what happened on the statistical side; what happened on the emotional side was that Teemu Selanne announced he’ll retire at the end of the season, and the hockey world collectively teared up just a little. The defining image of the 2013-14 Ducks will be either sad Teemu mourning his team’s final loss or elated Teemu raising the Cup for a second and final time.
Get ready to sob either way.
ANAHEIM DUCKS PLAYER TO WATCH:
Rookie goalie Frederik Andersen, back from a recent head injury, appears to have taken the reins from a beleaguered Hiller and is about to introduce himself to the world on hockey’s biggest stage. If he can stay poised under pressure and win the battle against the Stars’ two-headed scoring monster of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, he’ll become the darling of the NHL in a hurry, just like Jean-Sebastian Giguere did with his incredible playoff run in 2003.
The difference is that Andersen won’t have to win games by himself; he’s playing behind a capable team that just needs a solid goatending performance, not a miraculous one.
DALLAS STARS SEASON LOWDOWN:
Dallas nearly doomed itself in January, when at one point the Stars lost six in a row and 9 out of 10 games. The team had to win 8 of their last 12 just to squeak into the playoffs at all, with half of those victories coming against opponents that are now on the golf course.
Special teams were a major culprit, with both the power play and the penalty kill ranking in the bottom third of the league. Still, Seguin and Benn each had career years, combining for 71 goals and 163 points.
The Stars should eventually evolve into a more complete team under coach Lindy Ruff, but in this, his first season in Dallas, the team’s identity still belongs to Seguin and Benn. As they go, so go the Stars.
DALLAS STARS PLAYER TO WATCH:
Seguin has matured a great deal as a player and as a person since being exiled from Boston after bottoming out in last year’s playoffs. We’ll learn a lot in the next week or so about what he’s made of – look for him to play inspired hockey against the Ducks and put some distance between himself and his dismal performance last year (1G, 7A, -2 in 22 games).
It seems like everyone is picking the Stars to pull the upset, largely because people don’t quite believe the top-seeded Ducks are as good as their record indicates. That might be true, but the Stars haven’t been to the playoffs since 2008, while the more experienced Ducks have a little extra incentive (Teemu!) to play their hearts out.
In what is likely to be a high-scoring affair, cool heads and defensive discipline will be all the more important. Stars coach Lindy Ruff will have his team ready to play, but there’s no substitute for experience in the postseason (barring a lights-out goaltending performance, of course). Veteran leadership and overall comfort in the crucible will make the difference here.
Ducks in 6.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF ICE NATION UK’S NHL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS.
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