Jakob Silfverberg finds playoff puck luck

Ducks' Jakob Silfverberg has made his (scoring) presence known in the playoffs, ranking seventh in NHL

The list of NHL playoff scoring leaders reads like a roundup of the usual All-Star suspects.

Ducks right wing Corey Perry — a Stanley Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and former regular-season MVP — leads the pack with 15 points, two ahead of Chicago winger Patrick Kane, a two-time Cup winner and 2013 playoff MVP.

Rising stars Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay sandwich fourth-ranked Ryan Getzlaf, Perry's Olympic and Ducks teammate. Chicago center Jonathan Toews — a two-time Cup winner, two-time gold medalist and 2010 playoff MVP — sits sixth with four goals and 11 points.

But the next name triggers a double-take.

Ducks right wing Jakob Silfverberg — who endured goal droughts of 16, 12 and 10 games this season but kept his job because of his defensive skills and uncanny shootout knack — ranks seventh in postseason scoring with an eye-opening three goals and 11 points in nine games.

That's as many points as Kucherov and Toews have produced and more than franchise players Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay (10) and Alex Ovechkin of Washington (nine).

"He's been a difference-maker in all the games," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We knew he was capable, but he's gotten hot at the right time and that's great."

Though the 24-year-old Swede is an unexpected presence among the elite scorers, he has earned his place. His emergence as an offensive catalyst has given the Ducks speed, depth and balance up front that are difficult to defend.

"You never want to get surprised when you succeed, but looking back at the regular season I've been more successful points-wise in the playoffs," Silfverberg said Thursday. "But I feel like I've kind of been playing the same way. Maybe a little bit more puck luck here in the playoffs.

"I try not to look too close into it. As long as the team is doing good I'm happy, and we've been doing pretty well so far."

The best players make their own luck through diligence and perseverance. In that regard postseason success is no accident for Silfverberg, who scored only one goal in his first 27 games this season but finished with a career-high 13 goals and 39 points.

"You want to believe that," Silfverberg said after the Ducks completed a long practice in preparation for opening the Western Conference finals against the Blackhawks on Sunday at Honda Center.

"I've been working hard throughout the year but maybe not getting the rewards that I would like to get. As for now, the puck is kind of bouncing with me and I'm having fun out there."

In addition to his usual penalty-killing duties, Silfverberg has gotten considerable power-play time with linemates Matt Beleskey and Ryan Kesler. His assists on the Ducks' two power-play goals last Sunday in their series-clinching 3-2 overtime victory over Calgary gave him three power-play assists in the playoffs, tied for second-most. His four power-play points are tied for second. He played 22 minutes and three seconds in the clincher, tops among the Ducks' forwards.

If Silfverberg's production is surprising to those who saw him struggle most of the season, it's no shock to Kesler.

"Just from day one, seeing what he does, seeing his puck skills, seeing the way he can shoot the puck, I knew he could score," Kesler said. "It was just a matter of doing it game in and game out. He's found that consistency to his game now and we've been working well off each other."

Silfverberg's confidence has grown because of his increased responsibility. "It's great to see him performing like he is now," Beleskey said.

Silfverberg's next challenge is maintaining a high level. He and the Ducks will have to be even better than they were against Winnipeg and Calgary in order to stop deep, experienced Chicago.

"It's one of the best teams in the league and it has been so for the last couple of years," Silfverberg said. "And they have such good skills, so obviously we've got to play our best and we've got to make sure that we play smart. We can't give them anything for free. We've got to make sure that the chances they get, they have to earn it by playing really good.

"I think if we keep playing like we did in the previous two series we should be fine. We're playing on top of our game right now and I don't think there's a better time to face the Blackhawks than right now. We're really looking forward to it."

And to making their own luck.


Twitter: @helenenothelen

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