(Photo Credit: Don Logan)
The Anaheim Ducks stumbled out of the gate early in the 2017/18 NHL season and took a while to climb back up the standings.
As a result, they were one of the last teams to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference this year. However, they shouldn't be taken lightly as they might be a lot better than most people think.
Let’s look at why the Anaheim Ducks may surprise people in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Injuries have played a major role in the Ducks’ early struggles. Ryan Kesler missed the first 37 games of the season after going through hip-surgery. Meanwhile, Hampus Lindholm was in and out of the lineup with multiple injuries and, captain Ryan Getzlaf missed almost six weeks of action with a facial fracture.
Injuries continue to plague the Ducks late in the season. Kevin Bieksa undergone hand-surgery in mid-march and Cam Fowler recently went down on with a shoulder injury that will put him out two-to six weeks.
Despite all these setbacks, it might be a blessing in disguise. As other players were given a chance to step up in an expanded role. In the long run, this might be more beneficial for the team as they have been grossly underrated all season and no one will know what to expect when they ice a full roster in the postseason.
The Key Contributors
As mentioned before, key injuries has opened the door for other players on the Ducks’ roster emerge this season and one of those players is 24-year-old Rickard Rakell. He has carried Anaheim offensively for much of this season and is having a career-year with 32 goals and 66 points in 75 games. He also became an NHL All-Star for the first time season representing the Ducks at the game earlier this year.
Ondrej Kase is another player that has stepped up significantly for the Ducks. The 22-year-old has set a new career-high in goals (19) and points (37) and has been providing solid secondary scoring for his team all year.
John Gibson has taken a step forward in his NHL career. He has been solid for the Ducks for much of this season, especially early on. Although, they weren’t able to win as many games wanted to Gibson kept them in many and have set a new career-high in wins (31), save percentage (0.926), and total saves (1733).
Finally, general manager Bob Murray made a savvy move bringing in Adam Henrique earlier this season. Henrique has been a solid contributor upon his arrival, scoring 19 goals and 32 points for the Ducks in 54 games. He also held down the fort at center when Getzlaf and Kesler were both out with injuries.
The Final Verdict
Even though they might finish lower in the standings than expected, the most important thing is the Anaheim Ducks are returning to the playoffs this year. In fact, teams shouldn’t take lightly as they have potential to upset a higher seed in the first round for several reasons.
Mainly because this team is built to win now, and on the whole they have the same team that was two games away from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
In truth, they might be one of the most complete teams in the playoffs this year. They have one the best center depth in the NHL with Getzlaf, Kesler, Henrique.
Additionally, they have filled their top-three lines with several great complimentary players in Ondrej Kase, Jakob Silfverberg, Andrew Cogliano and Nick Ritchie.
Aside from the Nashville Predators, Anaheim might have one of the most well rounded defensive cores in the NHL which includes, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Brandon Montour and Kevin Bieksa.
Overall, it’s fair to say the Ducks are locked and loaded and is an underrated team that few people want to face in the first round of this year's playoffs. Could 2018 be the year where we see the Anaheim Ducks return to the Stanley Cup finals?
What is your opinion of the Anaheim Ducks? Can they return to the Stanley Cup Finals? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to vote in the poll.