In a Western Conference ripe with potential upsets, the Anaheim Ducks are threatening to do some major damage in April. Although the Chicago Blackhawks may be getting the most attention of the lower seeds in the west, Anaheim has seemed to float under the radar. But an impressive 11-3 record in March has surged Anaheim into a playoff spot.
Forward Corey Perry has thrust himself in to MVP contention with a stellar second half. Already putting up career highs in goals and points, Perry has 3 games to tally the 3 goals he needs for 50.
And at 40 years old, Teemu Selanne has a new found youthfulness to his game, tallying a hat-trick recently against Colorado. He’s already scored the most points he’s had since the Ducks won the cup in 2006-07. Look for him to be a major contributor for the Ducks as they draw closer to the post season.
Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are also at the top of their games, and Lubomir Visnovsky leads all defenseman in points.
Dan Ellis and Ray Emery have shown themselves to be a couple of solid back up options, should Jonas Hiller be unable to go when the playoffs begin. Ray Emery won his first six starts and seven of his nine since joining the Ducks.
Simply put, the Ducks may not be the Mighty Ducks anymore, but the team is still indeed very mighty. They have the weapons to compete with any top team in the West. But they are not alone in the potential bid to upset the superpowers of the league.
Nobody can forget about the Chicago Blackhawks, who are currently in eighth place, hanging on by not much more than a thread, will look to take their Stanley Cup defense past the standard 82 games.
Although they have struggled a bit recently, nobody can underestimate the impact guys like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp can have. While their goaltending might have some questions to answer, Corey Crawford has performed solid and Anti Niemi wasn't exactly the most the biggest star a year ago. We all know how that worked out.
The Nashville Predators, who may find themselves dropping to the seventh or eighth spots as the season winds down, also has some major upset potential. With goalie Pekka Rinne having a career year, and a couple of beasts on defense in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, Nashville is going to be a team to watch.
If you head to the Eastern Conference, the potential for a playoff upset may lie with the Rangers, who are close to clinching a playoff spot after failing to qualify last season. With Montreal playing poorly down the stretch, Buffalo and Carolina will be battling with the Rangers for the opportunity to pull an upset.
Any lower seeded team who can knock off a higher seed will dramatically increase their chances of going far, it’s just one less top opponent they need to beat. There is no easy road though.
As good as the teams at the end of the playoff spectrum are, nobody can forget about the teams up top. Vancouver has won the Presidents Trophy for the first time in their history, and with Roberto Luongo in net they are a real cup favorite. But after losing Manny Malhotra and defenseman Dan Hamhuis, there are holes to fill.
Detroit and San Jose are also set to take their respective divisions, and have truly deserved it. In the East, Washington has gotten hot at the right time, and the Philadelphia Flyers are looking to redeem themselves from a Cup Finals loss.
Either way, the playoffs are setting up to be an exciting one this year. I have always felt there is no better game in sports to watch than playoff hockey. It’s truly a war, and the higher seed does not always come out on top (*cough cough NBA cough cough*). This potential for the upset will be on full display when the playoffs start in about a week.
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