NHL playoffs 2017: Anaheim Ducks preview

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Rickard Rakell
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Rickard Rakell /

After winning their fifth straight Pacific division title, the Anaheim Ducks look to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2007.

Despite the regular season success, the Ducks have not reached the Stanley Cup Final since they won the Cup back in 2007. Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are the only players left on the Ducks roster that won the Cup that year, and they’re hungrier than the rest to get back.

The strength of the Ducks’ roster is the depth they have assembled. Nine different skaters have scored double-digit goals for Anaheim this season. With the exception of Kevin Bieksa, the entire Ducks’ defense has been drafted and developed by the team. Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray has done a fantastic job drafting players during his tenure in Anaheim, allowing the team to continually be competitive in the salary cap era.

The question now is, can this team win in the postseason or will the old demons come roaring back.

Why Anaheim Can Win

The trip to the Stanley Cup Final is significantly easier in the Western Conference compared to the East. The Pacific Division is easier to go through than the Central division, where the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will likely have to battle it out in the conference semifinal.

Simply put, Anaheim can win because of their depth. Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore would both be key contributors in other teams’ defensive units. However, the Ducks defense is so deep both players have struggled to get consistent playing time in the NHL. Anaheim has two legitimate top defensemen in Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm. Playing against either Fowler or Lindholm is a difficult challenge for any opposing line.

The Ducks have great depth at center with Getzlaf, Ryan Kessler, and Antonie Vermette. Kessler is not the same shutdown center he was earlier in his career but can still bother opposing top scorers. Vermette is no longer a 20-goal scorer but won 62.3 percent of faceoffs this season. Vermette’s ability to win faceoffs will be big for the Ducks on the penalty kill or whenever they need to win a faceoff to get out of their own zone.

Why They Can’t Win

Defender Cam Fowler has been exceptional this season for the Ducks, but he’s not going to be of much help to start this playoff run. He’s currently battling a knee injury that could have him sidelined as long as six weeks from when the injury was suffered. He’ll be back in the postseason but Anaheim will have to start the journey without him being at 100 percent. Thankfully,  they have one of the deeper defenses in the NHL, but losing a player the caliber of Fowler is tough to replace.

Another potential red flag is Anaheim’s dependence on a goalie with just six career playoff games in John Gibson. Lack of experience for goalies can sometimes mean absolutely nothing. Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins road rookie Matt Murray to a Stanley Cup championship. But Murray and Montreal Canadiens legend Ken Dryden are the exceptions to the rule. In his six career games, Gibson has been disappointing. The American netminder has a 91.2 save percentage in the playoffs. If Gibson does not raise the level of his play in the playoffs the Ducks could have their dreams of a Stanley Cup ended sooner than expected.


It seems like a cliche at this point, but what works needs to be copied. All you need to go on a deep playoff run is a brick wall netminder, something Anaheim hopes they have in Gibson. The last time the Ducks made it to the Stanley cup they rode the backs of Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the latter of whom brought the Ducks to the Cup back in 2003. Gibson needs to play out of his mind to help support the Ducks in the postseason, as the team will live and die on how well he defends the crease.


It’s a tough road out of the West, as the Pacific is a minefield of teams that could play Cinderella. Edmonton or San Jose await in the Conference Semifinals if Anaheim can get past Calgary in the first round. That’s no easy task, as the Flames are a dangerous team that could exploit the Ducks question marks about the faith they should invest in Gibson. Should he hold up though, Anaheim is one of the deepest teams in the playoffs and look poised to get at least to the Conference Finals and a showdown — likely — with Chicago.

If all holds for the Ducks like it should, making it out of the West could very well result in the second Stanley Cup in 10-years for fans back in Anaheim.