As the Winnipeg Jets are gearing up for their first playoff berth since relocating to Winnipeg, they are up against a very tough Anaheim Ducks squad. I spoke with Jared Dobias of SB Nation's BattleOfCali.com about what Jets fans need to know about their newest opponents.
JS: What is the Ducks biggest strength?
JD: Traditionally I’ve always been able to say that the Ducks’ offense is their strength, as Getzlaf / Perry are a dangerous combination (and adding Ryan Kesler into the mix makes things even more intimidating). But as a whole, the Ducks offense this years doesn’t seem as dangerous as in seasons past, which is why the Ducks ended up with so many one goal games this season (thankfully, they’ve been able to win an insane amount of those one goal games, but I don’t think "puck luck" counts as a strength).
In the past, however, the Ducks have had to rely too heavily on Getzlaf and Perry for offense. This season we have much better depth, not just with the aforementioned Kesler (20 goals, 47 points), but Beleskey (22 goals, 32 pts) and a total of ten guys with 30 or more points. The younger kids are producing at a higher level than they have in the past.
JS: What is the Ducks biggest weakness?
JD: As usual, the Ducks’ defense is shaky at best. Turnovers have been costly for Anaheim, and this is a blueline that is prone to them. Clayton Stoner is astonishingly still a staple of the group, something no one can quite explain.
Off the top of my head, Anaheim is something like 16th place when it comes to even-strength shot attempts, which is, uh, not very good, especially in the playoffs. Our defense is spending a lot more time chasing the puck than our offense is spending generating opportunities.
JS: How reliable is their goaltending, are they capable of winning a series?
JD: Frederik Andersen is a capable goaltender. He’s certainly not the league’s best, but he can get the job done. He’ll only be as good as his defense in front of him, of course, which might be cause for concern.
The extent of John Gibson’s injury suffered on Friday is still a bit unknown as far as I know, so it’s possible we’ll be starting the playoffs without him and have Jason LaBarbera as our backup. If this is the case, well… hopefully the Ducks don’t need to relieve Andersen any time soon.
JS: Biggest Ducks storyline heading in to the series?
JD: Bruce Boudreau’s record might be the biggest story. Boudreau came from Washington with quite the playoff-bust reputation, and he hasn’t yet been able to shake that in Anaheim. He’s routinely made regular-season powerhouses out of his Washington and Anaheim teams, but those teams haven’t been able to get the job done in the postseason.
I don’t quite think his job is on the line in the event of another early exit from the playoffs, but he’ll find himself on a much shorter leash.
JS: Who has been the Ducks best player this year, and why?
JD: No surprise answer here, Ryan Getzlaf has been on fire this season. He’s actually improved his game this year, which is nice to see after he was given such a massive contract extension prior to the season.
He leads the team in points and is second behind Perry for goals scored, and we’ve seen improvement in his fancy stats this season - which according to some nerd somewhere (and uh, you know, facts) is apparently something important.
It certainly hasn’t hurt that Ryan Kesler came onboard this season to take some pressure off of him, of course.
Who could break out this playoff series for the Ducks.
I think we’re going to see some good things from Rickard Rakell. Demoted to the AHL earlier this season, he came back up to the Ducks with a completely different game. He’s much more aggressive, he’s attacking the net, and he’s generating plays. I think he’s found his confidence, and hopefully that converts to his post-season success.
Thank a bunch to Jared for answering my questions. Follow him on Twitter @JerMeansWell (Ed note: He doesn't mean well)