The Anaheim Ducks earned an impressive comeback victory on Wednesday night by erasing a 2-1 third period deficit to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 at the Honda Center.
The Ducks, trailing 2-1 with six minutes remaining in regulation, scored two goals in 64 seconds to take a 3-2 lead. The win helped Anaheim improve its record when trailing after two periods to 5-2, which is the best in the NHL.
The loss dropped Chicago to 24-3-3, and the team's lead over the Ducks in the West standings is now only three points.
Let's look at four takeaways from the Ducks' thrilling comeback victory over the Blackhawks, which was witnessed first hand by a franchise record 17,610 fans.
Anaheim Ducks are the Stanley Cup Favorites
The Ducks have the second-best record in the West at 22-3-4, but they have established themselves as favorites to win the conference and the Stanley Cup by defeating the Blackhawks for the second time this season to extend their point streak to 12 games.
With four quality lines, a talented and experienced blue line and the best goaltending duo in the league with Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller, Anaheim is the most complete and well balanced team in the league.
Aside from some mediocre penalty killing, there are very few weaknesses on this Anaheim team.
|Goals For||Goals Against||Powerplay %||Penalty Kill %|
Anaheim is currently on a 12-game point streak and has won games consistently at home (13-1-0) and on the road (9-2-4). The Pacific Division leaders are also 12-2-2 against Western conference teams in a playoff spot.
The Ducks have an abundance of playoff experience, they play well in all three zones and they take advantage of their opponents' mistakes, which was evident on Wednesday night when Teemu Selanne's go-ahead goal started with a Ryan Getzlaf interception in the neutral zone.
Bruce Boudreau's team has the skill, size and speed needed to dominate in the playoffs, and as long as the goaltending remains strong and none of the team's key players suffer major injuries, the Ducks will be the favorites to lift the Stanley Cup in June.
This team's confidence is sky high and the players truly believe that they can beat anyone who stands in their way of another championship.
Jonathan Toews is a Legitimate Hart Trophy Candidate
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was the team's best player on Wednesday and further proved why he's a legitimate candidate for the Hart Trophy.
Even though linemate Patrick Kane is having an amazing season and playing arguably the best hockey of his career, Toews has been Chicago's most important player this season with his exceptional performance at both ends of the ice.
Toews' brilliant shorthanded goal (video above) that started with a great shot block in his own zone is just one example of how important he is to the Blackhawks' success, both offensively and defensively.
He has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 30 games this season with two power-play goals, two shorthanded goals and three game-winning goals.
From a defensive perspective, Toews has been phenomenal in 2013 and is the favorite for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward.
Toews ranks second in the NHL with 35 takeaways, has 12 blocked shots, 14 hits and is playing a leading role on the league's ninth-best penalty kill. He also ranks fourth in faceoff percentage among players who have taken at least 200 draws.
The combination of scoring production, defensive excellence and leadership that Toews provides Chicago each night makes him one of the three most valuable players in the NHL, and it would be a real shame if he was not a finalist for the Hart Trophy in 2013. No player makes more of an impact at both ends of the ice than the Blackhawks captain.
Secondary Scoring is Anaheim's Greatest Strength
Secondary scoring is one ingredient that all teams need to win the Stanley Cup because offensive depth is so important in the playoffs.
Teams cannot rely on their first line to be productive each game, and in the salary cap era, one of the hardest challenges for general managers is to find low-cost players and veterans who are capable of producing offensively on the second, third and fourth lines.
Anaheim's secondary scoring was a question mark going into this season, but it has quickly developed into one of the team's biggest strengths.
If we assume the Ducks' top line is Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, here's a look at the scoring production that the team's second and third line players have provided this season.
With all of this scoring depth, it's no surprise that the Ducks rank second in goals scored and have the league's fourth-best power play.
In Wednesday's win over Chicago, Selanne completed the Ducks comeback with a goal at 15:37 in the third period to give his team a 3-2 lead, which would grow to 4-2 after an empty-net goal shortly after. Peter Holland, another one of the Ducks' depth forwards, opened the scoring in the first period with his third goal of the season.
One of the reasons why the Ducks went 3-0-1 in the four games that superstar winger Corey Perry missed because of suspension (he returns Friday vs. Detroit) is their scoring depth. The Ducks have eight players with 18 or more points this season and four players with 20 or more.
Every Stanley Cup team has three quality lines that are capable of scoring goals against top opponents, which is exactly what the Ducks will bring into the Western Conference playoffs.
Chicago Needs Another Forward for More Scoring Depth
After making some additions to the blue line over the last year-and-a-half, including the signing of veteran free agent Michal Rozsival and acquiring Johnny Oduya via trade, it's time for Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman to add some scoring depth to his roster before the trade deadline on April 3.
Chicago was without top-six wingers Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp on Wednesday, and their absence was obvious against the Ducks' dominant defense.
With two of the team's best forwards out of the lineup, Kane was forced to play a season-high 25:21 of ice time. This is not an ideal situation for a superstar player who is averaging 20:24 of ice time per game in a shortened season, which leads all Blackhawks forwards.
In addition to Hossa and Sharp missing games this season, second-line center Dave Bolland has also missed six games due to injury.
Bowman would be wise to add another top-six forward to his lineup before the trade deadline because if Hossa, Sharp or Bolland miss playoff games with injuries, it's going to be difficult for the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup.
Over the last five games, depth forwards Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg, Brandon Saad, Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw have scored zero goals combined. If the Blackhawks have to rely too much on Toews, Hossa, Kane and Sharp in the playoffs, their chances of reaching the Cup Final will be slim.
Even though Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have played well in net this season, they are still unproven in the playoffs (Crawford in particular), so Chicago needs its offense to be firing on all cylinders going into the postseason.
The Blackhawks' top priority before the trade deadline should be adding a veteran forward with offensive skill and playoff experience to the roster.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.