By order of importance;
1. Goaltending: According to GM Bob Murray, Jonas Hiller is healthy. As Ducks News reported Murph said Hillsy wasn’t healthy at the start of last season. When healthy, Hillsy is among the NHL’s best. Arguably top 5. In the new NHL,which eliminated clutch and grab and hockey to speed up the game, goal tending is even more important. We may never again see a team like the 90’s Wings win with average net-minding.
Ducks have high hopes in Viktor Fasth who could see somewhere in the neighborhood 12-15 games, so long as he’s effective. Less if he isn’t.
2. Total Effort: You can’t win if you can’t outscore the opposition.The goal- tending is strong enough to give us a chance to win on most nights. Hiller is known to steal a game now and then. For every hockey player the fun starts when your team has the puck. Getting and keeping the puck is the work. Our Ducks need to dominate on both sides of the puck, when they have it and when they don’t. The quickest way to see and measure total effort is by position and structure. Are we strong inside such that we force the opposition outside regardless who has the puck.
3. Intangibles: The better the team, the fewer question marks as camps open. Our Ducks have three. The infusion of youth will bring speed. The new big guys, Souray, Allen, Winnick & Staubitz add the snarl. There’s a nice mix of vets at or near their peak years in Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf, Cogliano, Beauchemin and Lydman. Gabby’s organizing and everybody plays approach will encourage a team first culture. While this team obviously lacks the talent of our Cup squad it’s the best balanced team since.
4. Schedule: As Gabby says, “There’s a very fine line between a groove and a rut.” In a shortened season featuring many consecutive games against the same team, there is no time to slip into ruts. The key to competing game in, game out is between game maintenance. For the guys who haven’t been playing, getting in game shape quickly. Luckily we’re likely only breaking in 4 completely new guys. Familiarity favors our Ducks.
5. Sacrifice: Every player has sacrificed to get to the NHL. it’s different for every guy. Can they sacrifice for each other though? Can they suck it up instead of retaliating and taking a dumb penalty? Is each willing to take a hit to make a pass? Will they block shots?
As noted, the mix of talent and skill sets seems complete. There’s a nice balance of experience and youth, skill and snarl. It’s a team with three accomplished and recognized stars in Corey Perry, Jonas Hiller and Teemu Selanne. We have lots of solid veteran leadership in Koivu, Winnick, Cogliano, Beauchemin, Lydman, Souray and Allen.
Not many are picking our Ducks for a the playoffs. They have the parts to surprise.