The Western Conference of the NHL is full of teams that appear to be in beast mode right now–the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks have especially been turning heads and grabbing headlines with their stellar starts–but there’s actually another team right there in California that’s off to an amazing start, even though no one seems to recognize this.
It’s the Anaheim Ducks, winner of seven of their nine games played so far. That’s the best start to a season they’ve had since 2006-07, when they went 9-0-3 in October 2006 and had only two shootout losses to blemish their first nine games that month. What happened at the end of 2006-07? The Ducks became the first Californian Stanley Cup champions.
Right now, the Ducks actually lead the Pacific Division, though they have 15 points and so do the Sharks. They win the tiebreaker and hold second place in the West, right behind Chicago. I’ve written before about the strong play of their backup goaltender Viktor Fasth. Veteran players like Saku Koivu (three goals, eight assists) and Teemu Selanne (three goals, seven assists) are leading the offensive charge, though other players like Sheldon Souray (four goals, three assists) and Daniel Winnik (five goals, three assists) are also helping out so that the scoring depth isn’t too shallow. All in all, 17 men on Anaheim’s roster have registered at least one point.
Fasth’s momentum is amazing right now, too: he’s won all four of his games played and his goals-against average is not just sub-2.00, it’s sub-1.00 at 0.98. Of all goalies who have played a reasonable amount of games–i.e. not just one–Fasth’s goals-against average is the lowest in the entire league. His .962 save percentage isn’t anything to sneeze about, either.
Twice this season, the Ducks have put up seven goals to win games: their season opener against the Vancouver Canucks (7-3) and their first meeting with their freeway rivals, the Los Angeles Kings (7-4).
So it’s safe to say they’ve been doing pretty well so far, but not that the official NHL power rankings have made much of a note of it. It took them until Feb. 4, after Fasth’s debut and after both seven-goal games, to even rank the Ducks at all. When they did, it was in ninth place and acknowledged only the depth of scoring.
Keep an eye on the Ducks, the forgotten Western Conference superpower, because this strong start could very well foretell a strong finish for them this season.