Good news! We reached out to our SB Nation counterparts from Anaheim Calling with some questions going into the Pacific Division Finals, and they were kind enough to respond. Kristen (AKA light_the_lamp) provided the answers below; you can check out Anaheim Calling's series preview right here, and be sure to follow them throughout the series for the opposing perspective.
(Also, John answered five questions about the Kings over at Anaheim Calling. Check them out.)
The Ducks and Kings see a lot of each other in the regular season, and have played some significant games already - the Dodger Stadium game in particular. However, real rivalries are forged in the playoffs, when there is a Cup at stake. Because these two teams have never met in the postseason, the "Freeway Face-Off" has always felt more like a marketing gimmick than a genuine rivalry. I'm excited to change that. This series will be hard-fought - I predict 6 or 7 games, regardless of the outcome - and I fully expect it to be the beginning of a great rivalry.
Q: Ryan Getzlaf received his first Hart Trophy nomination this week. Why has this season, in particular, been so successful for him?
Ryan Getzlaf has been the undisputed leader of this team for several seasons now. He was the playmaking machine behind Corey Perry's Rocket Richard and Hart-winning season in 2011, and the the Ducks tend to be successful when he's "on." However, his first child was born two seasons ago, and he struggled mightily, only scoring 11 goals (the Ducks also had a terrible season, and didn't make the playoffs, either). During that season, the Anaheim Calling community really ripped Getz for "phoning it in" (in the interest of full disclosure, I was also part of the 'ripping').
I think that Getzlaf has finally found a work-life balance that allows him to be an active husband and father while playing to his full potential. He actually began his turnaround during the lockout-shortened 2013 season (with 49 points in 44 games), and was rewarded with an 8 year, $66 million dollar contract extension in March 2013. Both Getzlaf and Perry were due for major contract extensions at the same time, but every Ducks fan agreed that Getzlaf, as team captain and an excellent playmaking center, was the priority (luckily, we were able to keep both players). And this season, Getzlaf has elevated his game to a completely different plane, with 31 goals and 56 assists in 77 games. His regular-season dominance has also translated into some Conn Smythe-worthy heroics in the postseason. In Game 1 of our series against Dallas, Getzlaf took a Tyler Seguin puck to face that required 50-100 stitches. His second child was born several hours before Game 2. Either of those events would have been a distraction to any normal person, but Getzlaf soldiered on, scoring a total of 3 goals and 4 assists in 5 playoff games.
I fully expect Sidney Crosby to win the Hart, but the fact that Getzlaf is even in the conversation makes me very proud (yay for the west coast love!), and shows that he's really turned a corner as both an athlete and a leader.
Q: Aside from the usual suspects (basically, Getzlaf and Perry)... who was the most important player in the Ducks' first-round series against Dallas?
Not to dodge the question, but I think the Ducks' first round MVP is definitely Getzlaf. He put this series on his back like no other player. However, there were significant contributions from other players on the roster: Before he re-injured his leg, former Star Stephane Robidas was very effective at getting under Dallas' skin. The Patrick Maroon-Mathieu Perreault-Teemu Selanne and Devante-Smith Pelly-Rickard Rakell-Teemu Selanne lines played well. Luca Sbisa, who is a much maligned figure in the Ducks fanbase, threw five hits and got an assist in Game 5. And 's poise in Game 6 was remarkable.
Q: Tell us about the following young Ducks in five words or less...
These are going to sound like strange haikus, but hopefully, you'll get my drift.
- Hampus Lindholm: Speedy, strong skater, currently injured. (editor's note: Lindholm is questionable for Game 1.)
- Devante Smith-Pelly: Great net presence, offensive touch.
- Emerson Etem: Fast, tenacious, awesome.
- Cam Fowler: Our best defenseman, bar none.
- Kyle Palmieri: Puck possession!
- Jakob Silfverberg: Tenacious forechecker, strong penalty killer.
Jonas Hiller. Hiller is a playoff veteran, and I believe that coaches should ride the "hot hand" in the playoffs. This is not meant to diminish what Andersen has accomplished this season: he is a promising young goalie, and the future of our franchise. But during our quarterfinal series against Dallas, Andersen played well at Honda Center, but he struggled on the road. Had Bruce Boudreau kept Andersen in Game 6, Dallas probably would have forced a Game 7. Unfortunately, Hiller is in a tough spot with the Ducks front office. His contract will expire at the end of the Ducks' season, and the Ducks are expected not to resign him. We have the luxury of doing this because our goalie depth is incredible (we also have John Gibson and Igor Bobkov waiting in the wings), and although I strongly disagree with this sentiment, the front office has suggested that Andersen's emergence as an NHL goaltender has made Hiller expendable.
On an interesting note, Bruce Boudreau has apparently already made his decision about the starter, but is not sharing it with the media. If Boudreau chooses to split the difference, starting Andersen and home and Hiller on the road, that would be a reasonable solution as well (though I maintain that starting Hiller is the better option).