Ducks on the Move
The Stanley Cup hangover is gone. The jet lag from starting the season in England has worn off.
And here come the Stanley Cup champs, the Anaheim Ducks.
Even with the futures of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne still in limbo, the Ducks have started to move up the Western Conference standings, demonstrating they don't plan on repeating what happened to Carolina last season, namely going from Cup winners to a non-playoff team in a season.
And - Leaf fans aren't going to like this much - they've been doing it by being very, very good in the shootout.
The Ducks began Tuesday sixth in the west, just two points out of second. They've won four straight, but over the course of November, have picked up four extra points in the standings by being perfect in the extra shots competition.
And I mean perfect.
Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere has stopped 10 of 10 shots. In fact, the only shooter to beat him in a shootout this season has been Edmonton rookie standout Sam Gagner, and Gagner required an utterly fabulous deke to do it.
That has allowed the Ducks to need only one successful shooter in each of those four shootout wins. Corey Perry did the job against Los Angeles on Nov. 13 and San Jose on Nov. 17th, Ryan Getzlaf bit the Sharks on Nov. 9th and Mathieu Schneider was the solo hero on Nov. 1st against Columbus.
Take those extra shootout points away and the Ducks are 12th in the west, still struggling.
Quite a difference, huh?
One more thing on the Ducks. We can debate over where Brian Burke ranks among NHL general managers these days. Top five for sure, maybe better than that.
But in terms of keeping the pot boiling at all times, he's clearly No. 1.
Was Anaheim ever as much a part of the regular NHL conversation as it is now? And that's not because they won it all last year, it's because there's always something happening around the team, usually due to Burke.
Even last week, he put backup goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers, ostensbly because he couldn't trade him - Bryzgalov makes $1.3 million and is unrestricted at the end of this season - and because he promised to move him and give the Russian a chance elsewhere.
"Brian followed through on his word," Bryzgalov's agent, Don Meehan, told the L.A. Times.
Then as if the Ducks weren't big and ornery enough, he added a little more size and grit up the middle by acquiring centre Brian Sutherby - a 14-goal scorer in the first season after the lockout - from Washington for an '09 second rounder.
The Ducks line up different ways, but playing against a group of big, physical centres that includes Getzlaf, Rob Niedermayer, Sammy Pahlsson and now, perhaps, Sutherby, isn't going to make the Ducks any more enjoyable to play against.
Always something happening in Duck-land, that's for sure, mostly because Burke refuses to let his team fade from the headlines as he pushes the game in southern California.