The Ducks began the 2014 playoffs as the No. 1-seeded team in the West and faced a scrappy, physical underdog. That much will be the same, though their opponent will be the Winnipeg Jets instead of the Dallas Stars.
The big change is that this time there are no questions about who will start in goal. Frederik Andersen, who beat out veteran Jonas Hiller and rookie John Gibson for the job last spring but was injured during the second round, will start Game 1 on Thursday at Honda Center.
Gibson's upper-body injury eliminated any possible suspense but Andersen earned the job by compiling a 35-12-5 record, 2.38 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 54 regular-season games.
Andersen, who had only 28 games of NHL experience before his playoff debut last spring, said he feels better prepared for the rigors of postseason play.
"Experience-wise it's different. I played a lot more this season," he said Tuesday after the Ducks practiced. "I kind of feel more comfortable handling playing every second day. It's a lot different than playing once a week, like I did last year, basically, then all of a sudden had to play every second night. It's a little bit of an adjustment, how to get up for every game and be your best every night."
Left wing Patrick Maroon said Andersen's composure is a key asset.
"He's grown as a goalie so much. His work ethic, his passion for the game, his poise in the net," Maroon said. "He's so calm. He doesn't let a goal bother him. He responds the right way with another save or a second effort. Goalies and defense win championships. I think Freddie's got it for us."
Coach Bruce Boudreau also said Andersen is better able to remain cool and collected.
"Experience is a big thing but I think he's calmer in the net. When he's calm, we're calm," Boudreau said. "It gives you that sense of, 'OK, everything's going to be fine,' type of situation. I think a little bit last year he was jittery in certain games and you could tell. He made the save but it just didn't look as comfortable as he was this year in most of the nights that we saw him play."
Preparing for the 'Peg
The Jets said tickets had sold out in less than five minutes for Games 3 and 4 against the Ducks at the MTS Centre, the first playoff games in Winnipeg since the original Jets lost a first-round series to Detroit in 1996. That didn't surprise the Ducks, who expect emotions to run high in Winnipeg's 15,016-seat arena.
"We all know their barn is going to be really loud. It's the first year in how long for them to make the playoffs," said Maroon, who skated alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on Tuesday. "It's going to be loud and they're probably going to feed off their craziness. But we've just got to focus on what we need to do."
Left wing Matt Beleskey, who is Canadian, said the Ducks can benefit from the fervor in Winnipeg.
"It's going to be nuts. It's going to be loud. That's something I build off. It's going to be a really fun time there," he said. "You just use the energy, excitement of the game, the crowd, the big stage. It's the playoffs. You've got to thrive off that stuff. You've got to build off their energy. If there are boos that means you're doing something good."