The Anaheim Ducks scored 10 shorthanded goals during the regular season — three netted by Andrew Cogliano alone. So on Friday night, when the offensively lethal skater rushed into the Dallas Stars‘ zone with a shorthanded chance for the Ducks, it was no surprise the puck rushed past Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen for the game winner.
But despite Cogliano’s knack for depth success under pressure throughout the season, after the game the Ducks’ winger explained the goal from earlier in the night might have been the most important scoring opportunity of his career.
Important indeed for Anaheim carrying a 2-0 series lead over Dallas heading to Texas this week for the Stars’ turn to take advantage of home ice. But despite the Ducks’ commanding lead thus far, the team’s actual play during games has raised cause for a bit of concern; Anaheim’s play has been more sloppy than sensational over the first 120 minutes of hockey played in the series.
Will playing at home be the difference maker for Dallas star forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to lift their team into the series? Unless the Ducks solidify the unique depth that has sprung them above most teams this year, the answer to that question is most likely yes.
But this is where players like Cogliano prove their worth in Stanley Cup gold — or silver, more specifically.
While top liners Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been the prominent players in getting the Ducks on the board thus far, Anaheim’s key depth players need to find their part in better keeping the team ahead of offensively charged Dallas. Wednesday night, the Ducks gave up a 4-0 lead in Game 1, bringing the final minutes of the eventual 4-3 win down to an unnecessary nail biter.
While the scorecards stand in Anaheim’s favor at the immediate moment, the style of play and game effort by the team as a whole no doubt lies with Dallas. The Ducks have a near flawless game when utilizing the full talent of the team. Doing so will without a doubt propel them to the Stanley Cup Final. This team just has to click into the ability to do so before it’s too late.
But regular season flaws don’t dissipate simply because the playoffs begin. If Benn, Seguin and the Stars figure out a way to best Anaheim during a few moments of weakness, then this might just be the playoff show the NHL has been waiting for.