The Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the NHL who get next to no attention.
With the Chicago Blackhawks off to the best start in league history, the Ducks have settled comfortably behind them in second place in the Western Conference, with little fanfare.
"We're like groundhogs, we're so far under the radar," quipped the Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau last week. "That's good. We just want to get better as the season progresses and hopefully that culminates in making the play-offs."
Ryan Getzlaf, the captain, is content with anonymity, as well.
"Perfect," he said with a smile. "[The Blackhawks] are doing great things. They deserve all the attention. We hope we can catch them."
The Ducks are conditioned to life in the shadows. They often have played second fiddle in their own market despite consistently outperforming the Los Angeles Kings, with whom they share southern California. It is especially apparent this season, since their neighbours - the reigning Stanley Cup champions - got off to a terrible start. Only a recent hot streak put the Kings in play-offs position. But they are, as usual, selling more tickets than are the Ducks.
The Kings are averaging 18,211 people per game, one of 17 teams in the NHL that sell to or above seating capacity. Meanwhile, the Ducks are drawing 15,623. Their 91 per cent ticket sales rates 25th in the league.
Forbes Magazine ranks them 19th of 30 teams in value, the Kings 10th.
When the Ducks missed the play-offs last season, the speculation was that they could not afford to keep their two stars, Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who will be free agents this summer.
Instead, the team's powerful start has hushed talk that one or both would be traded before the April 4 deadline.
Getzlaf and Perry are nearly joined at the hip pads. Born six days apart, in May 1985, they were drafted in the first round by Anaheim in 2003 (Getzlaf 19th, Perry 28th). They reached the Ducks together in 2005, and are among just four holdovers from the 2007 Stanley Cup-winning team
Their club look formidable again, after completing an 11-2 February. Getzlaf leads in scoring, and Perry is not far behind. They also have nine players with at least five goals. Viktor Fasth, the rookie goaltender from Sweden, won his first eight NHL starts, but he still No 2 behind the veteran Jonas Hiller, who has been slowed by injury.
Not that a lot of people know it.
"That's the way we like it," said Nick Bonino, the centre. "We've got a good team and everyone in [the team] knows it."
Boudreau said: "We want to stay as level-headed as we can. Sometimes you get so much press that you read your own headlines and think you're better than you are."
So far, no danger of that.
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