We're moving on!
It feels good to be back in the second round, but before turning our focus to our next enemies, I want to take a moment to say thanks to our first ones from this playoffs: the Dallas Stars.
Dallas put up one hell of a fight, and
-Kudos to Dallas' incredible team speed. I know we always say that Andrew Cogliano is so fast he's dangerous on the ice for any opponent, but when you get virtually an entire team that's as fast as him, it's terrifying. And that's exactly what Dallas is. Their forecheck was relentless, their defensive pressure was constant for the entire 200 feet of the ice surface, and they gave the Anaheim Ducks often-sluggish defense fits because we couldn't play any of our quick-skaters due to their physicality. The speed knocked the Ducks almost entirely off their game plan that has given them so much success this year, and it made this series extremely difficult as a result.
-Kudos to Jamie Benn. The guy has come a long way since he first entered the league, and is now a massive threat offensively. In game four, the Ducks had almost no way of containing him without the power of Ryan Getzlaf to match him at center. As a result he essentially took a massive crap on the Ducks by winning a faceoff, walking through our defense, and wristing a shot into the net. Every single time he was on the ice he was dangerous.
-Kudos to Shawn Horcoff. At the outset of this series, the former Oiler was nothing more than a minor distortion on the threat radar. However, on the ice his speed and experience made him the second-most dangerous forward on the ice. He led the Stars in scoring, earning six points over the six games of the series (1 goal, 5 assists), and was a driving force on the Stars power play that, while it may not have produced much in terms of goals, was extremely dangerous in producing 43 shots on 29 opportunities.
-Kudos to Alex Goligoski. At first I believed a defense anchored by a Pittsburgh Penguins reject wouldn't even cause Anaheim's ruthlessly-efficient and high-skill offense to break a sweat, but the Grand Rapids, Minnesota native was a rock, playing nearly half the game throughout the series. His pairing with Trevor Daley was excellent at playing physical, recovering pucks, and then moving them efficiently out of the zone. When the Ducks were able to force a turnover from the Dallas defense, it was rarely those guys. Goligoski was also a brilliant power play quarterback and drove excellent possession with a 58.2% 5-on-5 Corsi-for despite having the second-highest quality of competition amongst defensemen (to only his partner, Trevor Daley). If the Ducks were to have lost this series, the play of Goligoski may have been the biggest reason why.
-Lastly and perhaps the most difficult... *shudders*... kudos to Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel. The scouting report coming into the series was these two guys were going to be complete mega-pests and we would learn to hate their guts in no time at all. That was pretty damn accurate. Almost right from the get-go, Garbutt and Roussel were throwing punches, hacking at shin pads, and making their presence known with massive hits. These two are the epitome of antagonizers, and together they sent what was a remarkably improved Ducks discipline this season straight to hell in a handbasket. Anaheim is currently the most penalized team, having been short 18 times so far this playoffs.
Garbutt's recklessness definitely made him public enemy number one for a long time coming in Anaheim, as breaking Stephane Robidas' leg will not soon be forgotten. I can't think of any player who has endeared himself to Ducks fans so quickly as Robi did, and seeing him cut down like that so early still brings a gut-punching feeling to our stomachs. But I guess we also have to thank him for spearing Corey Perry in the gut, because that penalty essentially cost his team game five and gave Anaheim confidence and momentum going into game six.
But even beyond that, the two of them were also effective in production. Garbutt actually outscored Corey Perry 3-2, and it sickened us here in Anaheim every single time he did.
We know just how much of a hated guy Corey Perry is in other markets, but Garbutt showed us just what it feels like to play against someone like him.