Daniel Winnik not questioning fast start

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
11:13
AM ET

When I catch up with unlikely scoring sensation Daniel Winnik by phone, he is buying towels and sheets for his new beachfront apartment. No word on whether he’s searching for a motif that shows a man with his arms raised in celebration over his head. If such a design were available, it would be apropos.

As the Anaheim Ducks prepare for a sold-out home opener Friday night at the Honda Center against Vancouver, they are looking to equal a franchise record with a third straight win to start the season. The only other time they managed to go 3-0 out of the gate was in 2006-07, when they went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The fact the Ducks opened this shortened season with two road wins was because, in no small part, of the contributions from the gritty Winnik and new linemates Andrew Cogliano and Saku Koivu.

From the moment coach Bruce Boudreau threw the three together in an abbreviated training camp, they began to score. Didn’t matter whether it was line rushes or scrimmages, they clicked.

"It was just instant chemistry," Winnik told ESPN.com amid trying to furnish his new digs.

The result has been a veritable fountain of offense for Winnik, who has four goals and an assist on the season, putting him among the league leaders in goals and points. The trio, meanwhile, has combined for five goals, nine assists and a plus-15.

Winnik bounced between Phoenix, which drafted him 265th overall in 2004, Colorado and San Jose the past three years before signing a two-year deal with the Ducks in the offseason.

When the offer was first made, Winnik said he felt there was going to be a good fit with the Ducks.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native has known Cogliano for years. The two share an agent, Pat Morris, and work out together in Toronto in the offseason. When Winnik was playing at the University of New Hampshire and Cogliano was at the University of Michigan, the two kept in regular touch, so there is a level of comfort between them on and off the ice.

Longtime NHL netminder Brian Hayward, now a broadcast analyst for the Ducks, said he thinks Winnik is the perfect complement to what Cogliano and Koivu bring to the mix. While Cogliano has great outside speed and Koivu uses lateral movement to buy himself time in the offensive zone, Winnik has been a straight-line-to-the-net presence.

"It’s exactly what they need. He’s a powerful skater," Hayward told ESPN.com. "He’s making really good plays. If he continues to go to the net with the aggressiveness he’s shown in the first two games he’s going to continue to get points."

Two of Winnik’s goals have been beauties, Hayward said while another went in off a defenseman’s butt and another off his foot. But that’s what happens when you’re in the right part of the ice.

Still, Winnik admitted the early goal production has done wonders for his confidence.

“I’ve had some years where it’s taken a while to score and the weight of not scoring starts to build,” he said.

Last season, for instance, it took Winnik 31 games to get his fourth goal, a stretch that included a 17-game goal-less drought.

“I don’t think I expected to get out to this start," Winnik said. "I don’t think anyone did."

Boudreau said the reason for the trio’s success isn’t much of a mystery.

"I knew Daniel’s reputation, and I knew that he was mostly a defensive forward but they worked so hard together," Boudreau told ESPN.com. "They’re outworking their opponents."

For a team desperate for a good start, the production from its third line has been a godsend.

"It’s the most important thing," Boudreau said. Any successful team, let alone a championship team, has at least three lines that can hurt an opponent offensively. "It puts so much pressure on the other teams’ coaching staffs to match."

So now what?

Yes, everyone is a bit surprised at Winnik’s production, but Boudreau told him this week not to think of it as luck, a fluke or something that has to end.

"I told him not to think, 'This isn’t supposed to happen,'" Boudreau said. "I said, 'Keep pushing the envelope.'"

He told Winnik about players who find their scoring groove later in their careers and never give it up.

"Once they get it, it stays part of your DNA," the coach said.

Boudreau had a player like that in Washington named Mike Knuble, who, after struggling early in his career, recorded eight straight seasons of 20 goals or more.

"I think of a guy like Charlie Simmer," Boudreau said of the former Kings great. "I bet if we keep throwing out names we’ll come up with lots of guys."

Daniel Winnik?

We’re about to find out.

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