You’re an NHL defenseman. You’re playing the Anaheim Ducks. You’re facing the line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner.
What do you do?
Perry is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds. Getzlaf is 6-foot-4, 221. Penner is 6-foot-4, 247.
Coming at you on your left is a right winger who has won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, a goal-scorer with a mean streak. In the middle is one of the league’s best centermen, a leader who makes plays and scores himself. On your right is a left winger who crashes the net and puts the puck in it at his best.
Do you play keep-away? Get out of the way?
“We’re all big-bodied guys that can handle the puck,” Penner said. “We all complement each other.”
They have been one of the best lines in the league this season, if not the best, and they have been the driving force for the Ducks, who have won six straight games, lead the ultra-competitive Pacific Division and rank behind only the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks in the overall standings.
Perry, Getzlaf and Penner have combined for 48 goals and 100 points – 36 goals and 73 points at even strength.
Compare that to Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, who have combined for 45 goals and 107 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins – 30 goals and 73 points at even strength. (Dupuis does not play on the power play.)
Now compare it Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, who have combined for 40 goals and 95 points for the Washington Capitals – 22 goals and 44 points at even strength.
Crosby and Ovechkin are the leading contenders for the Hart Trophy once again, and rightfully so. Crosby leads the NHL in scoring with 51 points, five ahead of Chicago’s impressive Patrick Kane. Ovechkin leads the league in goals with 28, four in front of St. Louis’ streaking Alex Steen.
But Perry won the Hart himself in 2011, and Getzlaf has belonged in the conversation before.
“They’re both great players, and they both compare equally to those guys,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who coached Ovechkin with the Capitals and faced Crosby often. “Perry’s a goal-scorer, big and strong like Alex. Getzy can score and dish out a lot like Sidney. The only thing is, he’s bigger. Sidney might be quicker, Getzy’s bigger.”
Getzlaf and Perry are both in the top 10 in goals and points this season. Perry is third in goals with 22; Getzlaf is ninth with 16. Getzlaf is fourth in points with 39; Perry is eighth with 37.
“Everybody just talks about the same people all the time, but you look at our record and you look at where we’d be without Getzlaf and Perry, I’ve got to believe they’re fairly valuable to our team,” Boudreau said. “They’re what makes it go. When they’re playing on top of their game, we’re a tough team to beat.”
The Ducks signed Getzlaf, their captain, to an eight-year, $66 million contract extension last season even though he had a down season in 2011-12. He was still only 27 at the time. He finished the lockout-shortened schedule with 15 goals and 49 points in 44 games, and he is on pace for 38 goals and 98 points this season, both of which would be career-highs. He was riding a 16-game point streak until it was snapped Tuesday night, and he missed part of that game against the Detroit Red Wings to get his upper lip stitched after going face-first into the dasher.
“I think he’s skating a lot better,” Perry said. “He’s definitely playing with that fire and that passion again, and that’s great to see. I love it. I know everyone else in the dressing room and this organization loves it, too. That’s the player he can be, and that’s the player everyone expects him to be.”
Shortly after the Ducks signed Getzlaf last season, they signed Perry to an eight-year, $69 million extension even though his numbers also had slipped in 2011-12, albeit not as dramatically as Getzlaf’s. He, too, was only 27 at the time. He finished with 15 goals and 36 points in 44 games, and he’s on pace for 50 goals this season – the same number he scored when he won the Hart. He has 10 goals in his past 10 games.
“We’re at the halfway point almost, and I think that we’re both playing great hockey, and he’s been playing awesome,” Getzlaf said. “He’s scoring goals every night – and big goals for our team – much like he did the year that he won [the Hart].”
Then there’s Penner. The Ducks traded Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators in the summer even though he scored more than 30 goals four times for them. They received Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first-round pick, and they saved money. Ryan had two years left on his contract at a $5.562 million salary. Penner signed a one-year, $2 million deal as a free agent.
Penner scored 29 goals with the Ducks in 2006-07, the season they won the Stanley Cup. He scored only 11 in 117 regular-season games with the Los Angeles Kings the past three seasons, but he already has 10 in 29 games with the Ducks this season.
Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan all like to play with the puck. Penner goes to the net, giving the line a different element.
“He’s a guy that creates a lot of havoc in front,” Perry said. “He’s a big man. He takes defenders with him. That opens up ice for Getzy and I, and Getzy’s making those passes that he seemed to make earlier in his career, and things are going in.”
Forty-eight goals, and counting.
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