|ESPN Network:ESPN | NBA.com | WNBA.com | NHL.com | ABCSports | ESPN Radio | EXPN | Page 2 | Insider | Shop | Fantasy|
Wednesday, May 7
Updated: May 7, 12:47 PM ET
Anaheim hitting on all cylinders
By Ray Ferraro
Special to ESPN.com
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks have advanced to the Western Conference final thanks to a formula all underdog teams must follow: contributions from everyone on the roster. There have been some standouts -- goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere shutting teams down and defenseman Keith Carney playing more than 28 minutes per game -- but the Ducks have gotten big plays from plenty of unexpected sources. Rookie defenseman Stanislav Chistov scored the game-winner in Game 3 against Detroit, winger Mike Leclerc netted winners in Games 2 and 4 against Dallas, and defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh sent the Stars home by scoring his first goal of the postseason in Game 6 of that series. Anaheim doesn't have a player ranked in the top 30 in playoff scoring, but 11 Ducks have at least four points and four are tied for the team lead with three goals. The penalty kill has also been a strength for the Mighty Ducks; they've allowed just five power-play goals in the playoffs. But what is most remarkable is that they've gotten this far with a power play that is converting at a rate of just 9.8 percent (4-for-41). But this playoff run is not a fluke. Anaheim plays a tight defensive system. During the regular season, the Ducks ranked sixth in the league with 2.35 goals allowed per game, and Giguere posted eight shutouts. Because they aren't very big physically, the Mighty Ducks' system enabled them to stifle the Wings, who are a skating team, in a first-round sweep. It also helped that the Wings didn't respect them enough, until it was too late. The Ducks then took advantage of every break they got against the Stars, from disallowed goals and lucky bounces to sprawling saves and untimely Dallas penalties. They also made the most of Bill Guerin's limited effectiveness for the Stars. Anaheim is putting together a run like the Carolina Hurricanes did last year -- but with better goaltending -- and the Ducks could easily win the next series. Vancouver would likely be a huge favorite in the conference final against the Ducks, but the Canucks are a skating, offensive team like Detroit. Minnesota, on the other hand, is pretty much a mirror image of the Ducks with its defensive style of play. During the regular season, Anaheim was 1-1-2 against Vancouver and 2-2-0 against Minnesota. The Ducks' penalty-killing unit would be tested against either team. The Canucks had the third-best regular-season power play at 20.7 percent, and the Wild has the best power play during the postseason at 22.0 percent (11-for-50). Taking all that into account, these teams are familiar enough with each other that there would be no surprises for the Ducks in either series, and neither team presents a particularly better matchup. All the Mighty Ducks can hope for is a continuation of their good play and good fortune. Ray Ferraro is a hockey analyst for ESPN. He retired from an 18-year NHL career after the 2001-02 season.