Ducks Swim to the Top
The numbers don't lie. At a time when NHL parity means the difference between teams is wafer-thin, the Anaheim Ducks have forcefully established themselves as the NHL's best team.
Actually, check that. They are the NHL's most successful team thus far, with more wins and fewer losses than any other club.
The Buffalo Sabres winning percentage of .763 runs second only to the Ducks' .794, but there are folks - certainly many of them in western New York - who would argue the Sabres are the better squad. They've cooled since starting the season with 10 straight wins and 15 victories in their first 17 games, but they couldn't exactly maintain that pace all season long.
It may indeed be a question of taste. The Ducks are the NHL's fourth best defensive team, the Sabres the NHL's best offensive team by almost a half-goal per game.
The Sabres are better to watch; the Ducks have three fabulous veterans in Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.
Too bad the two teams won't meet even a single time, unless, of course, they collide in the Stanley Cup final.
Right now, the Ducks may be running into a few injury problems going into a road trip that will take them to Raleigh, St. Paul and Motown as 2006 turns into 2007.
Sean O'Donnell was already out going into Tuesday's divisional game against San Jose, and then the Ducks saw Todd Marchant, Francois Beauchemin and goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere leave that game with various injuries.
The Giguere injury is most worrisome. Backup Ilya Bryzgalov, the hero of the playoffs last spring, is already out with a groin problem, and 21-year-old third stringer Michael Wall now has all of four periods of NHL experience under his belt after mopping up for Giguere on Tuesday.
Wall was the backup goalie to Michael Leighton with the Ducks's top minor league affiliate and was recalled earlier in the season when Bryzgalov first went down because Leighton needed to clear waivers to be recalled.
When it became clear Brygalov would be out longer, Anaheim tried to recall Leighton, but saw him snapped up by Nashville.
Now Wall, a native of Telkwa, B.C. who played junior hockey for the Prince George Cougars and Everett Silvertips, may be Anaheim's only crease candidate for a while depending on the severity of Giguere's injury.