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November 15, 2013 | 10:54am ET

The Magic Kingdom
 Dennis Bernstein takes a look at the Anaheim Ducks' chances of returning the Stanley Cup to Orange County.

LOS ANGELES, CA -- In the first month of the season Iíve learned of a place where hockey magic is being created daily.

Itís a place where maligned veteran left wings can lead the lead in plus/minus ratings. Itís a destination where unknown European goaltenders can flourish and earn multi-year contracts. Itís a world in which a team can rank in the bottom five of the NHL on the powerplay yet rise to the top of the league standings.

If I didnít know better, Iíd say some of the pixie dust that floats over Disneyland has drifted a few miles down Katella Avenue in Anaheim and settled in and around the Honda Center where the Anaheim Ducks toil.

The guys in the room will tell you their early success has little to do with magic; itís been fashioned through hard work and great management.

While Head Coach Bruce Boudreau isnít a modern day Houdini, thereís no way the Ducks would have taken flight without him. Every coach has a shelf life with a franchise and while Randy Carlyle has done great things in Toronto, his administration had run its course in the O.C.

Boudreau is a playerís coach and exactly what was needed behind the bench to insure that its two stars, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, didnít fly the coop when pending unrestricted free agency loomed.

The conventional thinking that most subscribed to (including myself) was that maybe General Manager Bob Murray could hold on to possibly one but certainly not two of the pair that Ducks fans fondly refer to as ďThe Twins.Ē The moniker was attached to Getzlaf and Perry because from Day One their careers were destined to be forever connected. Maybe that where the magic really started, Getzlaf was supposed to surface in Toronto as the No. 1 center they still need and Perry was the winger that Sidney Crosby has been promised for years.

The pair decided to continue what they started in Anaheim and since theyíre getting north of $8 million per season for the next eight campaigns, itís less about magic and more about a lot of billionaire owners Henry and Susan Samueliís greenbacks.

But Murray did have some more magic powder around some moves heís made since securing his two cornerstone players.

The gifted Bobby Ryan, a pure goal scorer who routinely put up 30 goal seasons despite not being a favorite of either Carlyle or Boudreau was dealt away and to no one surprise has started hot in Ottawa. The guy even told us so on Twitter the day of his liberation from the franchise -- ďIím coming in hot, Ottawa,Ē was the proclamation.

Although the Ducks clearly surrendered the best player in the deal, they acquired a budding star in Jakob Silfverberg, who was on the way to an equally quick start before being sidelined with broken right hand.

Perhaps Murray cast a spell over another GM when what seems like a never ending search for a second line center continued early this season. Though Saku Koivu is a quality person, his days as an effective supporting scorer are long gone. The Ducks have tried numerous solutions, but none have been long lasting and this gap was a major reason why they were eliminated in round one against Detroit last spring.

Mathieu Perreault is a high-skill player who was undervalued as a member of the Washington Capitals. Since the world revolves around Alex Ovechkin in the Nationís Capital, it wasnít hard to secure the former 2006 sixth-round selection by George McPhee with only spare parts (AHL prospect John Mitchell and a 4th round pick in next Juneís draft).

While you never like to evaluate a draft early, that better be one hell of a fourth round selection if McPhee is to get equal value.

Perreault appears to have brought the long journey to a happy conclusion. The Drummondville, Quebec native has produced at almost a point a game rate and has been strong in the faceoff circle as well. The better news is that heís only 25 years old, making just a shade over $1 million and the Ducks have control over him as heís a restricted free agent at seasonís end. Heís found some chemistry recently with an oldster (Teemu Selanne) and youngster (Devante Smith-Pelly) lately to form a second line scoring threat, an essential for any contending team.

Dustin Penner is proof you can go home again. The big left winger had a celebrated run 40 miles north of his present work location. He experienced both triumph and despair with the Los Angeles Kings, scoring the overtime goal that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 and being a healthy scratch during a two goal season in 2013. When doors of unrestricted free agency swung open on July 1, the Kings had no cap room for a deal and with Getzlaf brokering a return to Honda Center, Penner chose a one year run back home.

He started off slow and was a healthy scratch early on, but even a concussion hasnít muted his on ice effectiveness or his post-game humor on Twitter. Though his detractors will always be around, this player has been set up to win playing with Getzlaf and Perry. Heís playing for a contract again and if he remains healthy, he will produce a 20 goal season, although I didnít have him leading the NHL in plus/minus at this juncture.

Thereís little doubt that if the Ducks have an extended playoff run, Pennerís hands will have something to do with it. Heís the NHL version of former NBA Robert Horry who had the nickname ďBig Shot Bob,Ē Penner has two rings and is forging a season that will pay off with a multi-year deal if he stays on track.

Thereís definitely some magic in Anaheim when it comes to European goaltenders finding their way to the Honda Center. Coming into the season, the incumbents Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth were undrafted free agents. Hiller came first, inking a deal in 2007 after three strong seasons with Davos in the Swiss League, five years later Fasth signed after a long run in the Swedish Elite League. With Hiller and Fasth both 31 and prospect John Gibson lighting up the AHL with the Ducksí Norfolk affiliate, it would appear the heir apparent was in place.

Is it time for more magic? Could be.

Frederik Andersen was a seventh-round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010, but never signed to play in Dixie. The towering netminder (listed at 6-3, 250 pounds) re-entered the NHL Entry Draft in 2012 and the Ducks made him their third round selection. A solid 2012-13 campaign in Norfolk (AHL) and an enduring lower body injury to Fasth brought Andersen to the big club less than three weeks into the season.

As Fasth did last season, Frederik started hot, winning his first six decisions with dual sterling save percentage and goals against average.

In a league that canít seem to find enough quality goaltenders, the Ducks apparently have four if you assume Gibson lives up to the ďcanít missĒ predictions. While itís never too early to start a good trade rumor, itís unlikely the Ducks make a move until weíre far closer to the trade deadline.

The question with the Ducks is if this magical start will continue to a magic carpet ride to a championship? Last season, they were ready from Game 1 and their start carried them to a Pacific Division title in a shortened season. Though they had the home ice advantage as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, they dropped a bitter game seven at home thatís provided motivation early on.

Though no one on their blueline will make anyone forget Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, one of the guys who skated with those two sees the where the possibilities could lead. Former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry believes that though only a quarter of the season has elapsed, heís starting to see parallels between this squad and the one that got him his ring.

ďIím starting to see similarities,Ē Perry revealed. ďYou look around this room and there are a lot of new faces, there are a bunch of guys in here who have a lot of character and want to win. The reason for our early success is because where working hard and playing every game like itís our last. If we keep doing that weíre going to be successful.Ē

Boudreau loves Perryís confidence, but he smartly pumps the brakes when talk of titles are raised.

ďThe way training camp ended with us losing three in a row then losing to Colorado opening night, I donít think we would have put this type of streak together,Ē the likeable coach admitted. ďOnce they started to compete, play for each other and battle for jobs because we have a lot of guys playing well. I hope this team does remind Corey of the one that won it all; Iíve got nothing to compare it to at this level. The belief that they can win right now is up there with the championship teams Iíve been on, but itís way too early. Itís November.Ē

Though they possess the aforementioned depth in goal, none of the current netminders are proven winners in the NHL post-season.

Hiller is a walk away free agent this summer and while that status usually targets a player in a position of depth, heís the only goalie with any post-season NHL experience. While he does have two post seasons of experience, his 10-10 record and his Game 7 loss to Jimmy Howard in last April support those who think he is not the one to lead the Ducks to a second Stanley Cup championship.

Both Andersen and Fasth havenít never appeared in the NHL playoffs and while they are deeper upfront than many of the Western Conference contenders, the jury is out on if this defense corps is a championship one.

Francois Beauchemin is a reliable warhorse, Cam Fowler looks like heís the player the Ducks were counting on when they drafted him four seasons ago, and rookie Hampus Lindholm is on the radar of candidates for the Calder Trophy. The issue with this gathering of Ducks defense is that thereís no established offensive threat nor legitimate puck stopper that championship teams usually have on the backline.

If GM Bob Murray does pull the trigger at some point on a deal, rest assured it will be to bolster the defense.

Dennis Bernstein is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period Magazine. Be sure to follow him onTwitter.




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