Top Shelf: Boudreau has Ducks flying in rarefied air

Philadelphia, PA ( - Since the hiring of Bruce Boudreau early in the 2011-12 season, the Anaheim Ducks have been quietly ascending the ranks of the NHL's elite.

One reason Anaheim has managed to fly under the radar is because Boudreau, dating back to his time in Washington, has never been able to carry his team's regular-season dominance into the postseason.

Although we may have seen this story before from Boudreau's teams, even his biggest doubters can't ignore what's going on in Anaheim at the moment.

Anaheim recorded its 18th win in 19 tries on Wednesday and did so in historic fashion, setting a club record for goals in a game in the 9-1 home rout of the Vancouver Canucks. The lopsided win also allowed the Ducks to join the 1967-68 Montreal Canadiens as the only teams in NHL history to win 18-of-19 games. The Habs still hold the record with 20 victories over a 21-game span.

It was the eighth straight victory overall for the Ducks, giving Boudreau's boys the two longest winning streaks in the league this season (they also had a 10-game streak from Dec. 6-Dec. 28).

The rout also kept Anaheim without a regulation loss on home ice this season, lifting its record at the Honda Center to 20-0-2.

The Ducks are leading the NHL with 77 points, outdistancing its nearest competition -- the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks -- by six points. Anaheim will get a chance to extend that cushion on Friday when it visits last season's Stanley Cup winners for a showdown in the Windy City.

On pace for roughly 129 points, the Ducks could become the first NHL team to reach the 130-point plateau since the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings claimed the Presidents' Trophy with a 131-point season.

In fact, only two teams have managed to reach 120 points in the last 16 seasons and one of them was the Boudreau-led Washington Capitals, who posted 121 points in 2009-10 before getting bounced out in the first round by the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

It's seasons like the 2009-10 campaign that keep haunting Boudreau's reputation. No matter how many regular-season wins he piles up, people will say he can't get it done in the playoffs until he actually does it.

Last season, Boudreau led the Ducks to a Pacific Division crown and the second seed in the Western Conference only to watch Detroit beat them in seven games during the opening round.

Well on their way to another Pacific championship, things aren't expected to get any easier in the 2014 postseason, especially out West, which is clearly the stronger of the NHL's two conferences.

However, one reason to believe Boudreau can shake off the ghosts of postseasons past is the team he has in Anaheim is a balanced one. That's a departure from his Capitals teams who relied way too much on Alex Ovechkin's ability to take over games by himself.

The Ducks also boast more experience than any of Boudreau's Capitals teams, with guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Francois Beauchemin still remaining from Anaheim's lone Stanley Cup championship team in 2006-07.

The club brought back another forward from the championship days by signing Dustin Penner over the summer. Penner helped the Ducks win it all in the spring of 2007 and also was a member of the Los Angeles Kings when they won it all in 2012.

There is also the presence of Jonas Hiller in net and a strong group of young, but steadily improving defenseman. Cam Fowler, all of 22, is experiencing a breakout season on the blue line and rookie Hampus Lindholm has turned heads despite the fact that he won't celebrate his 20th birthday until later this month.

The pieces are in place for a deep run into the playoffs, but the narrative that suggest Boudreau can't win when it counts will only gain more traction if Anaheim stumbles in the playoffs once again.

Even though several of the league's best teams reside out West, the Ducks need to prove they can translate winning in the regular season to the playoffs this spring. Anything less than a trip to the conference finals should be seen as a huge disappointment.

Of course, claiming the franchise's second Stanley Cup title would silence Boudreau's doubters forever, but there's still plenty of hockey to be played this season before he can prove them wrong. Until then, the only thing Boudreau can do is what he's always done and that's to keep racking up the wins at a record-setting pace.