Days before he turned 21 in January, Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm got caught up in the excitement of a game in which he scored a goal and contributed an assist.
What would it hurt to deliver a hit on a New Jersey Devils player, too?
Lindholm bashed into the opponent, but then noticed suddenly that the Devils' penalty minutes leader Jordin Tootoo — whose glare could've won him a role in "The Sopranos" — was bearing down for some retribution.
Lindholm's first thought: "Where's 'Beauch?'"
Indeed, Lindholm's defense partner, 34-year-old veteran Francois Beauchemin, was nearby.
"So I told [Tootoo], 'Go through him and not me,' I'll stand behind," Lindholm said.
That chemistry is one example of why the Ducks believe their top defense pair can weather a long playoff run even though the Western Conference's top-seeded team has given up more goals than all but one playoff entrant.
"When we've lost games, we lost some bad . . . giving up five, six, seven goals, so that's going to count against us," Beauchemin said. "But over a best-of-seven series, we should do some good things."
Beauchemin, named an alternate captain for his 12th NHL season, led the Ducks with average ice time of 22 minutes 44 seconds.
Despite missing 18 games because of a fractured finger and mumps, he blocked 107 shots, delivered 105 hits and was plus-17 in even-strength play.
In the final season of his contract, Beauchemin — a member of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup-winning team — said the years have sharpened his intensity to regain hockey's ultimate prize.
"Every year could be the last chance, so you want to seize the opportunity you have and tell the younger guys, too, that even if it's their first or second chance, it might be their only one," Beauchemin said.
A dedicated listener to his partner and mentor, Lindholm admitted he was caught off guard by the accelerated play of his rookie postseason.
The Ducks were eliminated at home in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last season, and a defining play in a first-period onslaught by the Kings was Jeff Carter motoring past Lindholm en route to a goal.
"The first time you're in the playoffs, it's a little bit of a shock," Lindholm said. "I can play better. I've prepared myself and I know what's coming. The simplest plays are often the best plays. Don't try to do anything too fancy.
"You don't have to save the world with every pass. Stay on the inside and make them do something really good to have a scoring chance."
The 6-foot-3 Lindholm returned from the off-season bulked up, and the league has taken notice of his sharpened skills this sophomore season.
Lindholm's plus-25 rating is second among NHL defensemen, and he's the only player younger than 27 in the top five.
A power-play contributor, he also has seven goals and 34 points.
Asked if those kind of numbers tend to guarantee playoff success, Beauchemin said, "We'll figure that out soon," with the Ducks set to open a first-round series at home Thursday against the wild-card Winnipeg Jets.
"Playoffs is a different level," Beauchemin continued. "Every player reacts differently to it, but hopefully he plays the same way and will keep getting better every game."
Beauchemin said taking the young phenom under his wing has been a boon to his vocal leadership.
"I try to talk to him as much as I can; try to read off him when he jumps into the play," Beauchemin said. "The key between two defensemen is communication. Sometimes he does things other than what I say, but he has to play his game, too. It's part of his hockey sense.
"Hampus has great abilities for someone who's 21 years old — how he skates, moves the puck, his shot. He's going to be great for a long time."
And following his young partner's lead, Beauchemin has become more willing to engage in offense. He's scored a career-high 11 goals this season. In the 18 games Beauchemin missed, the Ducks were just above average with 10 wins.
"He's tough, gives 100% in every situation," Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen said of Beauchemin. "I like being behind him because he blocks a ton of shots.
"They feel comfortable as a pair, and the more comfort, the better you play."
Said Lindholm: "We fill out each other's soft spots. He is kind of a big brother. Plays a very solid, simple game."
For Beauchemin and Lindholm, it's as simple as this:
"You want to be the team with the least goals" allowed, Lindholm said. "You win championships defensively. We want to be that team. We're working on it every day."