Few know Anaheim Ducks forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry better than Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. After all, Quick has faced them down as a divisional rival since he ascended to the Kings starting spot in the 2008-09 season, and tended the net for the first ever playoff meeting two years ago.
So when writing from his perspective about what makes the best scorers in the league so difficult to stop in his "Elite Snipers 101" piece on The Players' Tribune, it's no surprise that first and foremost Quick highlights the Ducks duo:
Two words come to mind when I think about the Anaheim Ducks: Heavy minutes. A minute of them playing in your zone is equivalent to a minute and a half of another team, just because they play behind your net so much. So you have to be deep in your stance and on full alert a lot more and your legs start to really feel it by the third period.
Getzlaf and Perry have tremendous vision when possessing the puck on the perimeter. Even with their back to the play, they have an elite ability to make quick decisions and pick the seams in the defense. They use their big bodies to play keep-away behind the net, which forces me to scramble from post to post, and also wears down my defensemen. Then they'll spin to the front of the net and try to create multiple rebounds and general mayhem. They may not even score, but those heavy minutes kind of soften you up a bit for the next line.
There's obviously a ton of emphasis on puck possession in the media and in NHL locker rooms with the advanced stats movement really growing. But I think it's about the kind of possession you have. Some teams might have a lot of puck possession in your zone, but they're really not in threatening positions. They might be cycling the puck around on the perimeter and throwing some stuff on net, but that's pretty easy to deal with. With Getzlaf and Perry, it feels like every second of their in-zone time is threatening.
It's interesting hearing Quick specifically call out advanced stats, then in the next breath also point out how a 'heavy' team like the Ducks can maximize possession despite not necessarily having the bulk of the shot attempts. It adds credence as to why the Ducks in seasons past have been able to generate a higher percentage of high/medium danger chances.
That being said, it's also worth pointing out the 14-15 Ducks team that went furthest in the playoffs since the Stanley Cup year was also a team that generated the bulk of shot attempts in their games after the trade deadline and in the post season. Marrying that 'heavy hockey' style with increased emphasis on getting the puck at the net while suppressing the opponent's ability to do so helped the team evolve into a more dangerous postseason side.
In the NHL, everyone shoots the puck well. But most guys need the puck in the right spot in order to be really dangerous. The really top-tier shooters like Getzlaf and Perry can be holding the puck five feet outside of their body, or they could have it in their feet, and yet they can still get it off with mustard. That changes the whole calculus for me as a goalie. The best shooters aren't necessarily the hardest shooters — the best shooters are the guys who can drastically change the angles of their release.
Watch how Getzlaf has the puck out super-wide here and then pulls it into his feet in an instant. It's not about what Getzlaf sees. It's what the puck sees. The "openings" from the point of view of the puck are entirely different in a matter of 0.5 seconds.
If an average shooter has the puck in that position, you'd be thinking, Alright, he's off-balance on one foot. He's not going to get a lot on this. Getzlaf roofs it before Howard can even react. Also notice the screen in front of Howard, another Ducks trademark.
One may not necessarily think of how important changing the shooting angles can be, so seeing it spelled out with Getzlaf as an example is a quality insight in to how an NHL goalie thinks about these things. Also, this is where the usual "can Getzlaf please shoot more?" request goes.
At the end Quick puts a bit about Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, with an intriguing bit of juxtaposition of them against Getzlaf and Perry:
It's not a coincidence these guys are in the Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Finals seemingly every year. Unlike Getzlaf and Perry, these guys do very different things, but they complement one another perfectly. I don't think I've ever seen two guys play with more confidence in themselves. They just seem to have an unwavering belief that they'll find a way to win.
If Anaheim is hard minutes physically, Chicago is hard minutes mentally. You have to constantly be tracking the movements of Kane and Toews because you're paranoid that Kane is going to float back door and Toews is going to know he's there without even looking up. And I think that's why hockey is such an interesting game to break down. Most people think of hockey as this brutal game (and it definitely can feel that way when you get hit with a Shea Weber slap shot below the belt) but it's really a mental game more than anything. Chicago has won three of the last six Stanley Cups. Kane and Toews aren't the biggest guys in the world, but they're incredibly intelligent, mentally tough and have amazing intuition when playing together.
The whole piece is very much worth your time, also featuring thoughts about Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin. The Players' Tribune has also featured work by Ryan Kesler in the past, detailing his incorporation with the Ducks this past season after being acquired via trade.