With the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Plays well underway, there's been several big storylines across the NHL making headlines. We all know about Sidney Crosby's concussion (http://formanfaceoffnhl.blogspot.ca/2017/05/my-two-cents-on-sidney-crosby-injury.html), the rise of the Predators and the return of relevant hockey in Edmonton, but if you're looking for the guy playing the best hockey in the NHL right now look no further than Ducks Captain Ryan Getzlaf. For those that know me, I've been a massive Ryan Getzlaf fan since he got to the NHL, in fact I consider him my favourite non-Avalanche player. Fresh off his monstrous 4-point game last night in Edmonton, this post will take a look at Getzlaf's 2016/17 season including a dominant 2nd-half resurgence.
After winning Gold with Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey in September (3rd gold since 2010, Olympics 2010/2014), Getzlaf came into the season ready to prove people wrong after another year of playoff failure. Four straight years the Ducks lost on home ice in game 7 in the playoffs, which inevitably lead to the firing of Bruce Boudreau and re-hiring of Randy Carlyle last summer. It's been well noted Getzlaf's close relationship with Carlyle and many felt that he had a big role in Randy returning to Anaheim, the place both won the Stanley Cup back in 2007.
While many people questioned the firing of Boudreau, Getzlaf was ready to prove people wrong and he started the season on a roll with 8 points in his first 6 games and 10 points in his first 12 games. The Ducks however were finding it hard to string together wins and scoring was a big issue, with Getzlaf scoring just 5 goals over his first 35 games (29 points over that stretch). While he's never been much of a goal-scorer, Getzlaf faced a lot of scrutiny over the first half of the season (http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/getzlaf) and many people felt he was past his prime.
As soon as the calendar switched to 2017, something changed in both Getzlaf and the Ducks game and the player that people were starting to write off began to show flashes of brilliance again. He started January on a 5-game point streak, with 2 goals and 9 points in 10 games in the month. Things really took off for Getzlaf following the NHL Trade Deadline, and a big part of that was the Ducks acquiring Patrick Eaves from the Stars.
Eaves was paired with Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell upon arriving in Anaheim and the line has been one of the best in the NHL since, with Getzlaf driving the production. Post trade-deadline Getzlaf had 4 goals and 27 points over his final 18 games, leading the Ducks to their 5th-straight Pacific Divsion title. After just 5 goals and 29 points over his first 35 games, Getzlaf finished the season with 15 goals and 74 points in 73 games.
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Getzlaf has always been a playoff performer in his 11-year NHL career, with 99 points in 104 career playoff games coming in. The Ducks demolished the Flames in 4-games in round one, with Getzlaf scoring in 3 of 4 games and putting up 5 points in the series. The Flames seemed to have no match for Getzlaf at center, but perhaps what was so impressive was the shot-first mentality the regularly pass-first Getzlaf showed in the series.
He has shown no signs of slowing down in the 2nd round, with the Ducks currently tied 2-2 against the Oilers in a back-and-forth thrilling series. In 4 games in the series, Getzlaf has 4 goals and 8 points, bringing his playoff total to 7 goals/13 points in 8 games. He sits 2nd in the playoffs in goals (Silfverberg/Guentzel 8) and points (Malkin 16), including notching 5 multi-point games and goals in 6 of 8 games.
With his spectacular 4-point performance, Getzlaf passed Ducks legend Teemu Selanne for the most playoff goals (36) in franchise history. His 112 points are also a Ducks playoff record, and he's matched his single-playoff high with 7 goals. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the 31-year old Getlzaf is the minutes he is logging, leading all current forwards with 23:06 per-game including leading all skaters in that Ducks/Oilers game last night with 25:56 icetime (2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, +4, 3 shots, 2 hits, 1 block)
If you haven't seen much of the Ducks/Oilers series, I highly recommended tuning in to the remainder of the series which is basically a best two-of-three at this point tied 2-2. The momentum swings in this series have been thrilling to watch, and it's been the best series of the 2nd round so far. Connor McDavid is worth watching this series by himself, but it's been the play of Ryan Getzlaf that's been turning heads. While there are many suitable (early) candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, the way Getzlaf is playing he leading the pack currently. Here are my current Conn Smythe Trophy favourites:
Early Conn Smyth Trophy Favourites:
1. Ryan Getzlaf - 7 goals/13 points
2. Pekka Rinne - 7 wins/2 shutouts/1.33 GAA/.953 Save %/2 assists
3. Marc-Andre Fleury - 7 wins/2.39 GAA/.935 Save %
4. Evgeni Malkin - 4 goals/16 points
5. Erik Karlsson - 1 goal/8 points
6. Henrik Lundqvist - 5 wins/1 shutout/2.04 GAA/.935 Save %
7. Jake Allen - 5 wins/2.05 GAA/.936 Save %
8. Jake Guentzel - 8 goals/12 points/OT Goal
9. Cam Talbot - 6 wins/2 shutouts/2.62 GAA/.916 Save %
10. Jakob Silfverberg - 8 goals/9 points/OT Goal
Honourable Mention: Ryan Ellis - 4 goals/9 points
The Ducks Captain has come a long way since winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2007, 10 years later he's playing some of the best hockey of his career. On last night's broadcast Craig Simpson called Getzlaf very "Mark Messier-like," in his willingness to lay everything on the line come playoff time. I highly suggest you watch #15 if you haven't had the chance, he seems unstoppable every time he takes the ice!