Dominant D du jour

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

When you think of intimidating hockey, the images usually boil down to toughness.

Whether it was the Big Bad Bruins or the Broad Street Bullies, thoughts of anything from hard-pounding players in the corners to bench brawls and goon tactics usually come to the forefront.

The Anaheim Ducks believe they have a different way to scare opposing players -- talent. Immense talent.

Specifically, the three-headed monster headlining their defence corps with the likes of Chris Pronger, Mathieu Schneider and the recently returned Scott Niedermayer.

"We think it has an intimidating factor. We do," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle after yesterday's morning skate. "We've stated that before. When you put those players on the board -- every team posts the line-up in the dressing room -- and you have the luxury to put Pronger out with (Sean) O'Donnell, and then come back with Niedermayer and (Francois) Beauchemin and then come back with Schneider and (Kent) Huskins, it is going to play on some peoples' minds. We believe that.

"We'll have to prove that, it's a work in progress because we haven't had the group together for an extended period of time."

An interesting theory, to be sure. Yet, ask Doug Weight, who played his first game in Ducks' silks on the same night Niedermayer returned from his semi-retirement, and he'll agree.

"Before the puck's dropped, certainly it's intimidating," Weight said. "You're the ex-champs. This team everybody watched what they did last year in beating some great teams, and you've got J-S Giguere -- who's one a Conn Smythe Trophy -- and that whole defence corps, yeah, you know when you start reading that line-up, not matter whether you're at home or away, you're going up against a pretty darn good defenceman."

Hockey history is filled with teams that boasted two great defenceman. But in recent memory, it's hard to think of one that can compare with the trio of Niedermayer, Pronger and Schneider -- and hard to imagine you'll see a crew like this again with the salary cap system.

The New Jersey Devils had a fantastic trio in its Stanley Cup years with Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski.

You have to go back to the big three the Montreal Canadiens boasted in the 1970s -- Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson, all in the hall of fame -- to find a comparable group. Heck, you can even make a case Anaheim's big three may be even more impressive, seeing as there is more offensive flair involved, although it's hard to top that 1976-77 Canadiens team that won 60 games and lost only eight times.

Carlyle, no slouch of a defenceman in his day either, knows he has a special group on his hands, and the best in a long, long time.

"If you look at it from the standpoint of on paper," he stated. "But it's always one thing to make a statement on paper, but it's another thing to live it and they have to prove it. Are we comfortable with that group? Yes. But they have to perform to the highest level."

Now the trick is to make it work.

You're talking about three defencemen capable of playing 30 minutes a night. They've all proven it in the past. Finding enough ice time could be a problem -- a fortunate problem to have, but still a problem -- but Carlyle isn't worrying.

"We're trying to spread the minutes. We made the decision to try and keep our defence together, and if we can continue to keep going forward with them playing 22 minutes apiece, I think we'll be much better suited in crunch time," Carlyle said.


Videos

Photos