My ‘Adopt-a-Team’ Choice for This Year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Bill Tiller April 23, 2013 Anaheim Ducks, Commentary One of rituals that took place each spring in Thrasherville was the annual trip down to the NHL Adoption Center to pick out a team destined for postseason play in which to bring on as one of our own. Given the fact that the team that was here was done each season after 82 games, the need to adopt another one was ever-present. OK, yeah…there was that 2007 foray into games 83-plus, but all that did was delay the adoption center visit by about a week. This ritual continues for those of us in the ruins of Thrasherville. Really it’s the only time of the season where a certain sense of normalcy returns given we are used to not having a home team to root for during the playoffs anyway. And even though there are still a few games remaining in the regular season, I like to get down to the Adoption Center early to beat the crowd. Now, some people will take the expedient route by simply running in, looking at the available options sitting on the top shelf of the standings, grab one of those and hurry back out in time to catch the Braves game or meet tee time. But that’s more “Bandwagon Jumping” than it is “adopting” in my opinion. And, to be quite honest, it’s also rather lazy. If I opted for that strategy, then I would have to first look at the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East as a possible choice. They are indeed an outstanding squad of skaters to be sure, but I’m really leery of donning the black and gold Penguins jersey for a couple of reasons. One, let’s just be honest with each other, with the signings and trades they’ve pulled off, the Pens organ-I-zation has pretty much become the Evil Empire of the NHL world, what the Yankees are to MLB. It’s a title they have stolen from The Big Red Borg also known as the Detroit Red Wings. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) The other reason being, I just don’t want happening to me what I’ve seen happen to other good people who put on a Penguins sweater. Decent, pleasant, well-mannered individual by day, these same people mysteriously transform into what can only be described as ”manners-challenged” at night after putting one on. They take them back off and …POOF…normal people again. It’s simply baffling, truly Jekyll and Hyde stuff here. The exception here is my secretary Trixie, who is a huge Penguins fan…go figure. When she puts on her black Pens jersey, she wears it as if it were a short cut dress…a verrrrrry short cut. So, I rather like it when she sports her Penguins attire. Then there are the Chicago Blackhawks out West. All this team has done is play 45 games so far and only six times have they failed to skate off the ice with 1 or 2 points to show for their efforts. They’ve only given up 97 goals this season and their goal differential is plus-50. Not to mention they’ve got names like Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Ray Emery, Patrick Sharp just to name a few. Yeah, I’ll climb out on a limb and say they got a better than even shot at winning the Cup. But the way I see it, that bandwagon’s pretty full and filling up more as we speak. And like I said, I don’t jump on already full bandwagons. Hey, there are the four teams which hail from Canadaland, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. I could easily see my way to giving any one of them…chuckle…snort…chuckle…OK, OK, I almost made it though that with a straight face. But admit it, I had you going there for a second, eh? (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports) On a serious note though, I would like to welcome back to the playoffs all you Maple Leafers for the first time since the lockout. The 2004-05 lockout, I mean. With Bettman around one has to clarify which work stoppage one is referring to. Regardless, it will be good to see the hockey Mecca once more a part of the Great Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Moving on…there’s the Sharks, of course, but I’ve been bitten once too many by this bunch after bringing them home to swim in my pool. I mean, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me six times and its back to foster care with you! The defending Stanley Cup champs Los Angeles Kings? Nah… going with LA just seems a tad “chic” for me. The New York Islanders? True it’s been a while since they were postseason qualifiers…the last time they were there, so too were the Thrashers…so some may opt to take them on given that. However I’ll keep looking, nonetheless. And I’m sure the Bruins are going to become a sentimental pick given the horrific tragedy that beset that city last week, and that’s all well and good and as it should be. We all stand with you Boston. But for me, I’m setting my eyes to the west. Specifically SoCal for the team I’m choosing to take home with me….the Anaheim Ducks. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports) They’ve won the Pacific Division and are in the second overall spot in the west. What that means is that they will not have to face the Blackhawks until the conference finals…which is as good a scenario as they could hope for. And when I look for a playoff team to adopt, I look first between the pipes then outward from there. Goalkeeping and defense are requirements No. 1 and No. 2 for a deep postseason run and the Ducks have both in the “umpth” degree. To explain what I mean, let’s play a little game. I’ll throw out at ya the stats of their two goalies, and you tell me if you can pick which one is the “starter” and which one is the “backup”…Mmmmm-Kay? A. 14-6-4, 2.42 GAA, .910 SV% and 1 SO B. 15-5-2, 2.10 GAA, .924 SV% and 4 SO Really a coach can’t go wrong skating either of those stats out there on a nightly base. And team looking for a goalie to make a strong Stanley Cup push would be thrilled to do so with one of those, but Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau has the luxury of having both at his disposal. One goes down, he can feel confident with the other without as much as a single heart palpitation. BTW, A. = Jonas Hiller and B. = Viktor Fasth. Directly in front of the goal you’ll find as solid a blueline as you’ll find, anchored by what in my opinion is the top defensive pairing in the league, Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin…and I’ve already made my feelings known about the latter of the two. The two led all NHL defensemen in plus/minus ratio, plus-23 and plus-20 respectively. The Ducks are giving up only 2.37 GA/G as a team, which is a direct result of the defense allowing but 27.8 SA/G. It certainly helps Hiller and Fasth when they don’t have to take as much rubber to the face as a possum on GA-53. Offensively they can score enough to not make the defense and goalkeeper constantly worried they have to play a perfect game. Balanced in their attack, six players are in double-digits in scoring while eight have 20 or more overall points in this work-stoppage shortened season. Leading the way for the Ducks is Ryan Getzlaf who has 15 goals, 32 assists for 47 points and is a plus-14. Behind him you’ll find Corey Perry and his 15 goals and 21 helpers along with a plus-9 rating. So all in all, this Ducks team looks very attractive to me, without being too “hip”, “chic” or one that bandwagon-ers will look to readily pile on. Now, is my selection of them as my adopted team a prediction they’ll skate away with the Cup in June? No, not at all. But this is the team that has caught my eye in the NHL Adoption Center, and I’m taking them home with me.