To be perfectly honest, this is a tough one to write since the pain of the loss is still very fresh. My fellow Ducks fans, the future is very, very bright for this team, and I won’t be surprised in the least to see them playing among the final four and beyond in the near future. Redirecting my attention 30 miles north, I’ll do my best to swallow my pride and say congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings on a hard fought series win. As much as I hate to say it, the better team made it through. There were a few assets in particular that the team in black and silver used to their full advantage and, ultimately, served as Anaheim’s downfall.
Jonathan Quick – Obviously. He played exactly how everyone expected him to in this series, which isn’t quite what we wanted to see. Even though he lit the lamp three times this series, Devante Smith-Pelly might still be having a few nightmares from that nasty glove hand of #32. Facing seven games against the second-most effective offense in the NHL, Quick answered the call with a 2.14 GAA and a .902 save percentage. Not stupendous by any means, but his impact was felt on some of the highlight-reel saves he made throughout the duration of the series. With the exception of Game 7, these matchups were so close that if Quick missed any of these saves, the series could have ended up turning in Anaheim’s favor, but that’s what this guy is about; he may not have ended up with the best stat line, but his ability to make some absolutely demoralizing saves can take the wind out of any opposing sails while giving his team chances to steal a win. I could try to explain my feelings towards the guy, but I think Wes Mantooth from Anchorman sums it up better than I ever could.
Anchorman - I Hate You, But I Respect You (via tsw731)
Marian Gaborik – God was this guy frustrating. Gabby seems to have finally gotten into a good groove with his new team, as LA got six goals (easily could have been a few more) in this series from the Slovak. None, however, were more demoralizing than the game-tying tally in Game 1 followed up by his OT winner. SEVEN STUPID SECONDS.
Alec Martinez – The Michigan native had a very good series overall. For the first few games, all the Kings goals were coming exclusively off either Gaborik’s or Martinez’s sticks. He was a strong threat from the blue line, making me a little nervous when I’d see him cock the stick back with the puck by his skates. While he doesn’t get as much ice time as key defensemen like Drew Doughty (and really, who does), he seems to be making the most out of his 15 or so minutes per game.
Tyler Toffoli/Tanner Pearson – These young linemates (only 22 and 21 years old, respectively) have been teaching a lesson that we learned back in the Dallas series: speed kills. These two were flying along the wings throughout this series, and that allowed them some zone entries with some dangerous potential. With seven points for Toffoli and six for Pearson going into the Chicago series, this duo looks like they’ll be extremely dangerous in the upcoming seasons, and the Ducks defensive corps will need to be prepared to counter their wheels.
Darryl Sutter – The guy clearly knows how to coach himself a hockey team. It’s pretty amazing seeing what he’s done for this team since taking the reins midway through their Stanley Cup winning season, as they haven't ever been this consistently good in their 46 year history. His team has found great success in their puck possessing and defense-heavy style, which is very evident by the fact that he’s been in LA for three years now and his team has never been eliminated before the conference final.
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There will be other playoff matchups between these two rivals in the future, and the Ducks will be the ones eliminating the Kings eventually. For now, though, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, I have to tip my cap to the victors of a great series before our boys return the favor sometime down the road.
Until next season, Ducks fans.