Stars aligning for stealthy Anaheim Ducks

Updated: March 13, 2013, 1:40 PM ET
By Craig Custance

When a team like the Chicago Blackhawks starts off the season on an incredible run -- shattering franchise records, capturing the imagination of hockey fans across an entire continent and bringing the sport back from the abyss of a lockout -- other developments sometimes get overlooked.

Like, for instance, the Anaheim Ducks were pretty much keeping up the entire time.

Chicago's incredible start means the Blackhawks don't have to worry much about clinching a spot in the postseason, but the top spot in the Western Conference has evolved into a two-team horse race.

Anaheim beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Tuesday night, winning again after allowing the first goal of the game when Luca Sbisa broke a tie game with 3:04 remaining. It was the Ducks' fourth consecutive win, a current streak topped in the NHL only by the Penguins (six). They improved to 8-2-3 on the road and their home record (11-1-0) is just as dazzling as Chicago's (11-1-1).

While we all can make an easy case for the Blackhawks as Stanley Cup contenders -- their experience, their depth on defense, their star power up front, their improved goaltending -- it's not a case made nearly as often for a Ducks team that sits just four points behind Chicago with a game in hand.

There's a hesitation to jump on the Ducks' Stanley Cup bandwagon when it's quite possible the stars are aligning perfectly for Anaheim to pull it off.