Lifting the Stanley Cup again is quite the motivation for Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf on eve of playoffs
Ryan Getzlaf knows what it feels like to have his sweaty fingers slide along the nickel and alloy.
He knows what it feels like to hoist all 34 1/2 pounds of the Stanley Cup. It’s been a long time since he reached the pinnacle of the sport, and so much has changed.
When the Ducks won it all in 2007, Getzlaf was in his second year in the NHL. In the years that followed, Getzlaf established himself as one of the best playmakers in the league and grew into the leader of one of hockey’s most consistent teams.
Eleven years since he lifted the Cup, the 32-year-old captain is chasing the trophy once more. The journey begins Thursday with Game 1 of a first-round series against the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center.
“This is the best time of the year to be playing,” said Getzlaf, whose Ducks have missed the playoffs just twice during his 13 seasons with the team.
The Ducks were forced to deal with a rash of injuries this season, including a fractured cheekbone suffered by Getzlaf on Oct. 29 that sidelined him for 19 games.
He says all the adversity his team faced “makes it feel like you earned it.”
Perhaps no one earned it more than Getzlaf. Despite suiting up in just 56 games, he finished second on the team in points with 61.
The center’s average of 1.09 points per game ranked 12th in the league, and if he had not missed 26 games, he might be in the running for the Hart Trophy as league MVP.
“We found different ways to win hockey games,” Getzlaf said. “At the end of the year, we weren’t relying on one line, two lines; everybody was pulling ... so that’s a good sign going into the playoffs.”
Another good omen: John Gibson’s continued presence at practice this week.
Reto Berra, who served as the team’s backup goaltender in Gibson’s absence, was reassigned to the Ducks’ minorleague affiliate in San Diego on Wednesday, paving the way for Gibson to resume his role as starter in Game 1.
Ryan Miller was superb in relief, and he could be called upon again during the postseason with Gibson a frequent visitor to the injured list. Miller started the last three games of the regular season as Gibson dealt with an upper-body injury.
“We’ve had the luxury of having outstanding goaltending all year,” said coach Randy Carlyle. “Both guys have come in and performed at a very high level. It doesn’t seem to waver in the confidence of our team which one we have in the net.
“It’s always a great sign when you can have two quality goaltenders available for the playoffs. We’ll take it day-by-day with Gibby and see how it works.”
Carlyle is willing to exercise patience when it comes to Gibson’s health. He’s afforded that luxury with Miller, a former Vezina Trophy winner, eager to return to the Stanley Cup Final.
The coach can’t be patient when it comes to the matchup with the Sharks. Sure, it’s a best-of-seven series, but the Game 1 victor goes on to win the series well over 60% of the time. Scoring the first goal is crucial.
“We’ve historically found ways to get good starts and then build on that momentum. ... It is imperative that you come to play. When that puck drops, you gotta be ready to go. You gotta be ready to roll,” Carlyle said.
“And that’s what we’re going to ask our guys and we’ve had no excuse, and I’m sure they’re going to be asking the same of their team. It’s all about the will and the ability to limit the amount of mistakes that we make.”
Keys to the series
A look at the key factors in the first-round, best-of-seven series between the Ducks and the San Jose Sharks:
1. Win the possession battle
There’s been too many times to count where John Gibson was forced to face an extraordinary number of shots to keep the Ducks in the game. The Ducks were outshot by an average of 2.9 a game, while the Sharks enjoyed an advantage of 2.7.
2. Make up for Fowler’s absence
Cam Fowler remains sidelined with a left shoulder injury and he still is not practicing. The Ducks’ top defenseman will be sorely missed: He’s the quarterback on the top power-play unit, and a threat to score at even strength. The Sharks are missing an integral piece, too. Joe Thornton hasn’t played since undergoing knee surgery in late January, but he could return at some point during the series.
3. Test Martin Jones
The Sharks goalie has been inconsistent of late. He was chased from the net in the regular-season finale after allowing five goals on 19 shots, and the former Kings backup had save percentages under .900 in three of his last five games. Jones did impress when the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final two years ago.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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