Newspaper article International New York Times

Ducks on Easier Playoff Path ; after Several Bitter Exits, Anaheim Enters Western Finals 8-1 in Postseason

Newspaper article International New York Times

Ducks on Easier Playoff Path ; after Several Bitter Exits, Anaheim Enters Western Finals 8-1 in Postseason

Article excerpt

If statistics are the true judge, no team has been better in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season than the Anaheim Ducks, who are 8- 1 in the postseason.

Despite their history of postseason calamities, the Anaheim Ducks enter this year's Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks with a strong wind at their backs.

They have a playoff-best 8-1 record. They have averaged nearly four goals per game during the postseason, a figure that leads the N.H.L. They have allowed the fewest postseason goals of any team in the West. They have posted the best five-on-five goal differential of the postseason, and they are second by an eyelash to the now- eliminated Washington Capitals for the top face-off-win percentage. They have yet to lose when they score first, and they have also mounted four comebacks when trailing after two periods.

"I don't want to say that they're more intense or more determined or more committed," Anaheim Coach Bruce Boudreau said of his players, "because I thought, at the time, every other team I've had, whether it was here or in Washington, was also committed and determined. But there sure is a feeling of we can do it when we're behind. I don't know if I've ever seen a team anywhere that has that feeling like we do."

The Ducks have had the most efficient power play in the league during the playoffs, scoring on 31 percent of their opportunities, after finishing third from last in power-play conversion rate during the regular season (15.7 percent). That success has been complemented by the top penalty kill rate in their conference during the playoffs.

"Along the way, special teams can win or lose you some games," defenseman Cam Fowler said, "and the way we've been going so far, it's definitely won us some hockey games."

The Ducks dispatched two upstart teams in the first two rounds, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets and eliminating the Calgary Flames in five games.

Now they face the Chicago Blackhawks, the Stanley Cup champions in 2013 and 2010 and conference finalists last year.

A year ago, the Ducks held a 3-2 lead in their second-round series against the Kings but lost the series as Los Angeles went on to win its second Stanley Cup in three seasons. In 2013, the Ducks had 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 series leads before falling to the Detroit Red Wings, a top-flight franchise that left a first-round upset of Anaheim as a parting gift on their way to a realigned Eastern Conference.

"The last couple years, we felt like we had a team that could contend and compete," Fowler said. "Losing in the first round left a bitter taste in our mouth. Then we go toe to toe against our rivals, L.A., and lose pretty badly at home for Game 7. Those are experiences that we have gone through together, and we've added a couple pieces that can help us along the way. We're as motivated as we've ever been. …

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