1. What's been the biggest catalyst for the Ducks' start? How much different is this roster from the 80-point roster of a year ago?
CK: It’s all about secondary scoring. Last year when Bruce Boudreau was hired at the end of November the third and fourth lines had one goal combined. This year the Ducks already have, a league leading, nine players with four goals or more, and that doesn’t include Corey Perry who only has two (as of this writing, Saturday morning).
I’d say it has a lot to do with Saku Koivu being moved down to the third line (for the most part), and playing much better than he did a year ago. Daniel Winnik has also been a revelation. He started with four goals in his first two games and has expectedly cooled off since, but even when he’s not scoring he’s a beast on the fore check causing all kinds of problems for the opposition.
Of course, Viktor Fasth’s 1.78 GAA and .932 SV% (significantly impacted by a five goal game against St. Louis last week) helps a lot too.
2. Call this 1a, but is it Bruce Boudreau? He's always been regarded as the "players' coach" previously, and maybe not so much a schematic "coach" which cost those Caps teams in the playoffs. Was that the kind of shake-up the Ducks needed? Can they win in the playoffs with Boudreau?
CK: I make no secret about loving Boudreau. The thing that I like most about what he has done is that he is about a bajillion times more interested in giving our prospects a shot and spreading out the ice time amongst the four lines than Randy Carlyle was. That also contributes heavily to the secondary scoring that has been so crucial to the team’s success, as I mentioned above.
It’s been incredibly fun to watch this team rack up goals this season, almost like the Caps in Boudreau’s early days there. They’re second in the league in goals per game (3.38) and 15th in goals against (2.62) which is what you would expect from Boudreau, but also somewhat concerning come playoff time.
I would obviously like to think that it can work in the post season, especially given that the Ducks have better goaltending than Washington ever did under Boudreau, but only time will tell. The good thing about having Boudreau out of the national spotlight is that he probably won’t be pressured into a more defensive style as easily after a couple of playoff failures. To me, that was the beginning of the end for Bruce in Washington.
3. Is Bobby Ryan still on the block? There are Columbus fans that would kick the tires on a trade, but we're curious as to how "available" he is, and what he might cost.
CK: Sweet baby Jesus, I hope not! We talk A LOT on AC about trading Bobby Ryan or Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry, but I think it would be a terrible thing for the franchise. Considering we might lose Perry and/or Getzlaf to free agency this summer (prevailing opinion says Getzlaf is much more likely to stay) not to mention Teemu Selanne and/or Koivu to retirement, dumping Bobby would be a disaster.
All the trading block drama last year was really Bob Murray’s last ditch effort to light a fire under the big guns, but it was too late anyway.
As for what it might cost, it’s impossible to say until we find out what the situation is with Getzlaf and Perry but I would certainly want an established number two center and some picks at a minimum.
*** Our thanks to Chris, and be sure to head over to AC for their game day coverage.