Some of our SB Nation brethren have been cooperating this year in the name of previewing games, exchanging questions and answers to better educate ourselves about the opposition.
My responses to her questions should be posted shortly at Anaheim Calling, where I discuss Sheldon Souray, James Neal, Mike Modano's position with the team, and why Loui Eriksson is just so darned good...
Update: That chat is here with my responses: http://www.anaheimcalling.com/2013/2/8/3968240/neales-notes-chatting-with-defending-big-d-lovejoy-in-hiller-starts
DBD: The team has been off to a super-fast start this year, What's been going right, and what parts of that start do you feel are sustainable over the long term? (Probably not that gaudy 13% team shooting percentage...)
AC: In all of our years of existence, the win over Vancouver to open the season was only our fifth opening day win of all time. It's quite sad. I credit a lot of the strong start to a short training camp and Bruce Boudreau. Under Randy Carlyle, training camp went the maximum amount of time every single day. It was a lot of power skating and a ton of weights. The team was exhausted before even playing a game. Bruce understands the need for players to rest and be away from the rink.
I've taken to calling the Ducks the Washington Capitals - West Coast Edition (sans Russians). Remember when the Caps were really, really good and Ovie was (allegedly) on Russian horse steroids and scored a bajillion goals? It's all due to Bruce's system, which is completely opposite to Randy Carlyle's. Boudreau wants the team to shoot all the time, even our 'stay at home' defensemen. We've been built for that style of offense since the day Bruce took over. The only problem was beyond the first two lines (which Carlyle heaped heavy minutes on), we had nothing. Now with a very extended summer to get what he needed, Bruce has four capable scoring lines. Our defense is still suspect at times but we can run up the score like the Capitals of old, give up some goals and still get the win.
By the way, I love my team but they're even shocking me right now. I keep waiting for the 'actual Ducks' to show up.
DBD: The Ducks and Stars shared a similarity in the off-season, signing an undrafted veteran Swedish netminder to a one-year deal. The Stars took Cristopher Nilstorp, and Anaheim Viktor Fasth. Nilstorp dominated in the AHL, held the Wild to a single goal in his first start for Dallas but then got hurt, and the similarities end there. Fasth has been lights out for Anaheim. What does he do well, is Hiller's #1 spot in jeopardy, and what's the worst Fasth name related pun you've seen or written so far?
AC: I am absolutely blown away by Vikor Fasth. There was a lot of hype by the Ducks as to his signing and I figured it was a PR grab. Nope. I could not be more wrong. The guy is just amazing. He is absolutely fearless. Patrick Marleau had a break away on Monday night and Fasth came really far out of his crease to dive and poke-check it away. Just unreal. The only downside is he's usually good for one soft goal a game. Wednesday night in Colorado was the first time he didn't give up anything.
As far as Hiller goes, his GAA and SV% are atrocious. I don't want to say he's bad but he's definitely a shell of his former-self. Boudreau says the success of Fasth should be driving Hiller to play lights out, too. In interviews, Hiller said he's fine with the way things are going because he knows he's still the No. 1 goalie and he and Fasth have a nice camaraderie. If Fasth keeps playing like he does, Hiller is about to get himself 'Hiller'ed'. We came to this terminology after Jonas Hiller stole the starting spot from J.S. Giguere by playing lights out. For now, I'm just happy we have two competent goalies.
AC is probably guilty for some of the worst puns because we think they're hilarious. We went with 'Not So Fasth' a couple games ago. Usually, the go-to for hockey scribes is 'The Fasth and the Furious'.
DBD: When will Teemu Selanne just go away already? How is he nearly leading the team in scoring through 9 games, and is that balanced scoring from two different lines really fueling this run for Anaheim?
AC: Haha, no! Never! His retirement still remains one of the biggest fears of the fans, especially considering the status of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry's contracts. IF we were to lose all three of them in one summer, we'd implode. (Stop hoping that happens, Stars fans.)
It's four balanced scoring lines fueling the start. The best line has been the third line of Dan Winnik, Andrew Cogliano and Saku Koivu. Winnik is the team leader in goals with five. Yeah, Dan freaking Winnik. Koivu leads in points at 11. Cogliano couldn't score on a wide open airplane hanger but his forecheck opens everything up for the other guys.
Of the 31 goals scored this season by the Ducks, only nine (or 29%) have come from the Big 4 - Getzlaf (3), Selanne (3), Ryan (2) and Perry (1). This would be unheard of under Carlyle. He plays two lines until they die on the ice. Bruce firmly believes in rolling all four. Having everyone else scoring takes a lot of pressure off of the Big 4; with the exception of Selanne, they're notoriously slow starters.
DBD: Stars fans will always be interested in Cam Fowler, because many felt Joe Nieuwendyk should have drafted the young man rather than Jack Campbell. How do Ducks fans view his development overall? He's injured now, but do you feel his defensive prowess will catch up with the offensive upside? He's already -51 in two seasons in the league.
I love little Cammy and thank you for not drafting him. I am not concerned so much with the plus/minus considering he was an 18 year old defenseman playing in the top pair, on his off-wing, against the best in the league in his first and second years.
Prior to his injury this year, Fowler was playing his best hockey in a Ducks uniform. Bruce started to utilize him as the superior skating offensive-defenseman he is. He's leading the rush on the power play, he's up and in with the forwards in the offensive zone. I can't wait to see him develop even more.
Now that Scott Niedermayer is officially an assistant coach, he can guide Fowler's development; whereas before, he only consulted and wasn't around all the time. At the draft, Cam was compared to Scotty; so we might as well have the actual Scotty coach him.
DBD: Has Sheldon Souray injured any teammates or opponents yet with that shot? He's had a great start for Anaheim, like he did for Dallas last year. What's he doing well? Are you worried he could fade again down the stretch? Was three years too much?
Haha, no injuries to anyone we know of - on or off the Ducks. I do love how his teammates cover their faces and get the hell out of the way when he winds up.
Combining Souray with Francois Beauchemin has been a revelation. Both are heavy hitters, just laying out people all around the ice. There are moments where Souray has brain farts (like the turnover which lead to the Marleau breakaway described above) but for the most part, Beauch is the safety-net. Boudreau's system always leaves one defenseman back near the neutral zone while the other defenseman joins the attack with the forwards. Souray's shot and halfway decent puck handling make him a great asset as the 'stay behind' guy.
At first, I thought the signing was absolutely reprehensible because of the dollars spent and length of contract. Right now, I'm ok with the money because the ROI is positive. The years, though, still too much given his age and injury history. I would have given him two years.
Thanks to Jen Neale from Anaheim Calling for the time.