Ducks' Getzlaf, Perry meet Hawks' Toews, Kane in West final
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Getzlaf celebrated his 30th birthday last Sunday with the only gift he really wanted: The Anaheim Ducks clinched a trip to the Western Conference finals.
His longtime linemate and hockey soulmate, Corey Perry, also turns 30 this Saturday. After nearly half a lifetime together, Getzlaf knows exactly what to get him.
''Nothing,'' Getzlaf said. ''Same thing he got me.''
They've been together from the first day they pulled a Ducks jersey over their heads nearly 12 years ago, and they won the Stanley Cup together in 2007. Getzlaf and Perry have persevered through slumps, injuries, a revolving cast of linemates and every normal pitfall of young adulthood to find themselves still together - and on the brink of another chance to play for the Cup.
But to get back to the Stanley Cup finals, they'll have to get past one of the few current NHL partnerships to have accomplished even more.
The Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane share many of the same serendipitous parallels in their own careers, also making simultaneous NHL breakthroughs and winning that first Stanley Cup title - and then another.
Two of hockey's best duos in a generation will meet in the postseason for the first time when the Ducks host the Blackhawks on Sunday at Honda Center.
All four forwards are among the NHL's top five playoff scorers this spring, and they relish the spotlight on their chance to add another banner to their growing list of accomplishments.
''This is the time of year that means the most to everybody, not just Getzy and me,'' Perry said. ''I think anytime you play against the best players in the world, you get a little bit more fired up. The adrenaline starts kicking in, and you get ready to play, because it's going to be that much harder.''
Partnerships of this magnitude and length are rare in a 30-team league. It's tough enough to keep two world-class players on the same roster from their youth to the prime of their careers, and it's even more unusual for both stars to stay at such an elite level of performance.
Yet Toews and Kane have been growing together since their first NHL season in 2007-08, evolving into two of the most exciting young forwards in hockey. Getzlaf and Perry have been together even longer, cracking the Ducks' lineup in 2005 and earning full-time jobs shortly thereafter.
''You don't see that happen very often in hockey, just because it's tough to keep guys together unless they want to be together,'' Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''That's what you have to admire about (Getzlaf and Perry). They grew up together, but they're committed to that partnership and to this team - to seeing this thing through and winning.''
The Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with the 22-year-old Getzlaf and Perry playing significant roles. While Toews and Kane carried the Blackhawks to the top of the league, Anaheim hasn't been back to the Western Conference finals since, yet its two stars steadily evolved into two of the league's most dangerous forwards.
''I think it's one of those things when you play with someone for so long, you're going to develop some chemistry,'' Kane said. ''It seems like even when they have the puck possessed and there's nothing there, it seems like they tend to send it back down to the net. Sometimes it's tough to get the puck against those guys.''
Getzlaf and Perry still play on the same line, as they've done for all but a few stray games of their entire NHL career. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville broke up Toews and Kane, spreading their offensive skill across the Blackhawks' top two lines.
Getzlaf and Toews are their teams' captains, and both were nominated this season for the NHL's Mark Messier Leadership Award. Getzlaf and Perry share an extra bond with Toews: The trio played for Canada at the Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi, winning two gold medals together.
''He works hard, and he tries to throw that team on his back a lot of times, so we're going to have to go out there and outwork him,'' Getzlaf said of Toews. ''When he's out there, he's on a mission a lot of times. That's why they like playing with him, and it's going to be a good challenge.''
AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed to this report.