ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ryan Getzlaf is a Stanley Cup champion, a three-time All-Star, a point-a-game player, and a Hart Trophy finalist for the second straight season. Corey Perry, meanwhile, scored 50 goals one season, and actually won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in 2010-11. But the duo toils in relative obscurity. Not only are they largely overlooked for the narrative-driving Eastern Conference, they’re even overshadowed in Southern California by the two-time champion Los Angeles Kings.
“Where do we play?” Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “If he was in any of the Eastern cities, everybody would know who [Getzlaf and Perry] are, and they’d be on national TV an awful lot.”
Well, you can be sure the Blackhawks know who Getzlaf and Perry are, how good they are, and what they can do. Of all the difficulties the Ducks pose, none is greater than the dominant duo on Anaheim’s imposing top line. Playing alongside Patrick Maroon, Getzlaf and Perry have combined for nine goals and 18 assists through just nine games en route to the Western Conference final, which begins — at last — Sunday afternoon at Honda Center.
With the benefit of the last change on home ice, Boudreau is planning to put Ryan Kesler’s line on Jonathan Toews’ line, meaning someone else will have the unenviable task of trying to shut down the Ducks’ top unit. At the United Center, it’s a safe bet Joel Quenneville will rely on Toews’ line to neutralize them.
“I don’t think it’s very easy to defend those guys when they’re together,” Toews said. “We haven’t seen them split up that much. They’re two big bodies who can buy a lot of time and space. It’s definitely not an easy task. They’re two guys we know we have to focus on.”
Unlike the Hawks’ dynamic duo of Toews and Patrick Kane, Getzlaf and Perry are rarely split apart. While Quenneville prefers to keep his stars separated to force teams to pick their poison (it helps having the likes of Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp to turn to, of course), Boudreau (like Ducks coaches before him) has always kept Getzlaf and Perry together. The two have been on a line together for nine seasons, even pre-dating their Stanley Cup run in 2007.
That experience has given the duo an innate sense of where the other one is at all times, and where each is headed. Quenneville even compared them with Vancouver’s Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the identical twins who’ve combined for 1,796 points in their careers.
“It’s that uncanny anticipation that can’t be taught,” Quenneville said. “There’s a lot to be concerned with, with them on the ice. And it makes them one of the top pairs in the league.”
The Sedins comparison prompted Getzlaf to cast a wary eye to the nearby Kesler and laugh for a moment, but even he had to admit it’s an apt one.
“We’ve been playing together for 10 years now, played in a lot of big situations together, trust each other,” Getzlaf said. “I think that’s the biggest thing when you play somebody that long, you trust where they’re going to be. They trust you’re going to get them the puck when it’s supposed to be there. We’ve been able to develop that chemistry. Hopefully that can continue.”
Toews and Kane haven’t played together much in recent seasons, but having grown up together in the NHL, they know the feeling, and the comfort level such chemistry provides.
Not to mention the discomfort it gives opponents.
“You can tell they know where each other are on the ice,” Kane said. “It’s one of those things where you play with someone for so long, you’re going to develop some chemistry. … You’re better off just staying patient and waiting for them to hopefully mess up, and stay tight as a group in the defensive end, and hopefully create a turnover and get it out.”