Depth key to Ducks' Cup chances

Role players such as Nick Bonino are key to Anaheim's postseason success. Harry How/Getty Images

ANAHEIM -- The nicknames are starting to pile up for Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino. For most of the year, it was simply Bones. Pretty self-explanatory for a guy with the last name Bonino.

But his growth into a critical member of the Ducks power play has added to the names. One of his strengths on the power play is puck retrieval, so at times they call him the retriever.

"The guys make fun of me for my retrieving," he said after the Ducks' 3-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday. "A retriever not a receiver."

And when they realized just how crucial he was to the success of their power play when he missed six weeks with a lower-body injury, they started calling him "The Answer." Kind of like Allen Iverson.

"Yeah, AI," said Ben Lovejoy.

There's another nickname.

"I don't even listen to them," Bonino said. "Retriever, The Answer, it's ridiculous."

This is exactly the time of year when guys like Bonino come to the forefront. Every single team that advances this far has star players. It's the depth guys who make a difference, and one of the best-kept secrets about the Ducks' success this season is they're as deep as they've been in years. This is no longer a top-heavy team that is overly dependent on Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan.

Bonino scored the first goal of the postseason for the Ducks, and Teemu Selanne's third-period goal held up because Anaheim's checking line of Saku Koivu, Daniel Winnik and Andrew Cogliano managed to keep Detroit's top line featuring Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg off the scoresheet.

It's one of the things that separates this Ducks playoff series against the Red Wings from some of the past between these two rivals. The Ducks have the depth, while the Red Wings are still trying to develop it.

"We showed it when we won those -- whatever our start was [Editor's note: Anaheim started 22-3-4] -- it was scoring from up and down the lineup," said Winnik who logged 20:06 against the Red Wings, finishing plus-1 while earning an assist on Francois Beauchemin's empty-netter.

Anaheim showed off its depth, not just with Bonino's contributions and Winnik's defensive and physical presence but also in the pressure Cogliano's speed creates, such as when he blew past Zetterberg for a scoring chance late in the third.

The depth of this team, not the star power, was one of the first things that stood out to Lovejoy when he came over from Pittsburgh.

Lovejoy saw that Boudreau is completely comfortable rolling four lines and playing all six defensemen, and you could see the payoff in the third period when Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan were at their best, with plenty of energy left to pressure the Red Wings.

That happens because of Anaheim's depth.

"First of all, good luck stopping our first line. You have to key on them," Lovejoy said. "But you need other guys to chip in and score goals."

The opening night to the NHL playoffs proved this again. In Chicago, it was Viktor Stalberg setting up Bryan Bickell for the game-winner. Not Jonathan Toews to Patrick Kane. In St. Louis, it was Alexander Steen pressuring Jonathan Quick and then scoring a short-handed goal that gave the Blues a 1-0 series lead.

The team this spring that gets the most of those moments from its talented role players will be the one that raises the Stanley Cup. The Ducks believe they have enough of those players to make it happen.

"You can't just have a couple guys score in the playoffs," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "If you're going to have a run, you need contributions from everyone."

It's the most underappreciated aspect of the Ducks' success. They finished as the second-best team in the Western Conference but have been overlooked as serious contenders in the West in favor of the Blackhawks, Blues, Kings and even the Sharks.

The win in Game 1 is a reminder of what got the Ducks here in the first place and why they very much should be in the same conversation with every other contender in the league.

"I think people are starting to realize we've had a lot of depth all year," Bonino said. "All lines are contributing. That's what got us second place. If that continues in the playoffs, you'd hope the success would stay the same. As long as we can help Getzlaf and the top guys, if we can pop in some goals -- it's huge."