At the onset of training camp last September, the Anaheim Ducks made the intentions of their upcoming season as clear as the words written across the backs of their new team shirts: unfinished business.
After the No. 7 seed Detroit Red Wings eliminated the Ducks in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, Anaheim cleaned out lockers and spent the summer boiling over what went wrong. Upon reviewing the team’s performance against the Wings a lot went wrong, actually, but many handed the majority of the blame to winger Corey Perry‘s dismal performance.
The Red Wings shut Perry down, with zero goals and only two assists in seven games despite 24 shots on goal. The fact that the performance came after Perry signed an eight-year contract extension worth $69 million with the Ducks stirred up more conversation about whether or not “Captain Clutch” was the right choice for Anaheim’s future.
So perhaps coming into this year Perry was the player with the most unfinished business of all, and his 78-point season, including 41 goals, has done nothing more than silence every critic who dared to doubt.
The correlation between how Anaheim fares with Perry notching points and how they fare without is staggering. And while many want to speculate about how the Ducks will do in the playoffs if matched up against the uptown rival Los Angeles Kings, the more important question is how will Anaheim do if Perry goes missing again. Chances are the Ducks won’t make it past the first round of the postseason if the Ducks’ yet to be determined opponent manages to keep Perry locked in a corner.
While Anaheim has the talent to roll four deep lines each night, the performance of those lines through a full 60 minutes is still very much a question. Both games the Ducks played this week at home were incredible come-from-behind wins after sleepy first and second periods; both wins also came via points from Perry.
With 20 seconds left in regulation on Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets, during a game in which the Ducks were at one time down 4-0, Perry scored to push overtime. Anaheim went on to win the game in what is now the greatest comeback in franchise history.
Two nights later the Ducks found themselves down 2-0 against the Edmonton Oilers at the start of the third period. Perry notched two goals and an assist for Anaheim’s eventual 3-2 win. Parallel Perry’s stats with Anaheim’s lazy first period habits (in an otherwise near flawless season) and any team looking to face the Ducks in the playoffs has a formula for potential success.
Anaheim cannot succeed without Perry; the stats show it, the fans know it and the opposition needs to come ready for it. But the good news for Ducks fans is keeping an athlete this talented in the middle of a hot streak off the points chart is not an easy task. And from the looks of it, Perry isn’t done with his part of the Ducks’ unfinished business just yet.