Feb 5, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19), Anaheim Ducks left wing Emerson Etem (65), Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81), and Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy (6) battle for the puck during the third period at the Honda Center. The Blackhawks won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Tonight the Anaheim Ducks will visit the Chicago Blackhawks as they battle in their first of 4 games against each other this season. The Ducks currently sit atop the NHL standings earning 14 points in 9 games while the Blackhawks sit in 6th with 11 points in 8 games. This matchup will be a true test to how good and tough the Blackhawks are vs. a Western rival. If they keep their play rolling like this into the spring there is a good chance the Blackhawks could face them in the 2015 NHL Playoffs. With that being said, I would like to point out 3 reasons why the Ducks could be the toughest team the Blackhawks face come playoffs.
Corey Perry Is On Fire
Corey Perry is back to last season’s form and looks to be shooting for another 50 goal season like he had during the 2010-11 season. He currently has 9 goals in as many games to go along with 3 assists and a total of 23 PIM, so barring any injury he should be able to accomplish the 50 goal mark once again. Also, not to mention, 6 of those goals were scored on hat tricks. In doing so, Perry became the 6th player in the last 29 years to record multiple hat tricks in their first 7 games of the season. As of late it seems when Perry contributes during the game in more than one way the Ducks get the win, so they definitely appreciate the goal support. These are the players that are hard to stop and you have to try and contain during the course of the game. Luckily the Blackhawks were able to take 5 out of 6 possible points last year.
Won Pacific Division Consecutive Years
During the 2011-12 season the Anaheim Ducks had a horrible 5th place finish in the standings and totally missed the playoffs. Then during the following lockout shortened season the Ducks turned things completely around and were able to capture 1st place in the Pacific Division during the 2012-13 season. Then last year once again the Ducks captured 1st in the Pacific Division and recorded a franchise-record 116 points for the season. They started this season with basically the same team from last year with a few additional pieces. The main addition to the top line was the acquisition of Ryan Kessler from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and a first-round pick. The center scored 25 goals last season and should fill in a void behind Ryan Gatzlaf at the second line center position. This was thought to of been the difference that might of gotten them past the Kings in their 7 game series in which they fell to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.
Advanced To Additional Round Past 2 Years
The Anaheim Ducks have now advanced 1 round further in the playoffs during their last 2 seasons as a unit. During the 2012-13 season the Ducks could have faced the Blackhawks but they lost during the first round to the underdog Detroit Red Wings in game 7. Then last year the Ducks were 1 point shy of the Presidents’ trophy but earned the number 1 seed in the Western Conference where they battled through the 1st round to beat the Dallas Stars 4-2. Once again if the Anaheim Ducks could have beaten the Los Angeles Kings they would have faced the Chicago Blackhawks but instead fell during game 7 after hanging on for so long.
The losses help the team grow and experience adversity. Each season they will want to fight for that further advancement in the playoffs the same way the Chicago Blackhawks have done in the past. When a solid core is in place and the team has a good goalie there is always a shot once you are in the playoffs. You can tell that this team is getting better and have been a pretty dominant factor in the Pacific Division and Western Conference. They did win a cup not long ago during the 2006-07 season so this franchise knows what it takes to build a winning team to contend for a shot at the cup.