By Thomas Harrington
One game isn’t enough time to evaluate how good or bad a team or a player is. With this in mind, I’ll be doing two different review series: one that will focus on individual players on the Ducks, and one that will focus on the team overall. As I did last year, every 10 games, I’ll break down how well the players have done. I’ll look at who I think was the best forward and defenseman during those games, as well as who I think was the worst forward and defenseman. I’ll also mention any surprises, both good and bad, and discuss both goaltenders as well. At the end of every month, I’ll take a look back at how the team is performing overall. I’ll examine how special teams are doing, good and bad trends, and anything else that seems relevant at the time. Since the first 10 games of the season coincided with the end of October, I’ll combine both the 10 game review and the monthly review into one post.
It’s safe to say the Ducks are off to a disastrous start, with only one win in the opening month of the season. With an overall record of 1-7-2, the Ducks find themselves tied for last in the league with Columbus and Toronto. Through those first 10 games, the Ducks have only scored 10 goals, while allowing 27. No one on the roster has more than three points, and the Ducks are already going through some early season injury issues. Josh Manson leads the team with an even rating, but he’s only appeared in four games this season.
With only 10 goals scored through 10 games, no Anaheim forward is off to a good start this season, but there are two forwards who I believe have been the best forwards so far. Rickard Rakell has a goal and two points. While his offensive numbers aren’t great, he has been one of the most offensively creative players on the Ducks’ roster this season and is one of five forwards to score a goal for the Ducks. Mike Santorelli is tied for the team lead with two goals and three points and has been a solid contributor so far. He’s a good role player and one of the few players close to living up to expectations.
The best defenseman for the Ducks to start the season has been Hampus Lindholm. He’s in his third NHL season, and while his plus minus stat is poor, he’s tied for the team lead with two goals and three points. Besides his offensive contributions to the team, his overall strong defensive play from last season has continued. If the rest of the team can start scoring and playing well, Lindholm’s numbers should significantly improve. He’s leading the team in average ice time per game and has scored on nearly 10% of his shots.
Given the Ducks’ offensive struggles, it’s hard to choose the worst forward to start the season. Chris Stewart has been nearly invisible, Patrick Maroon has looked lost, and Jakob Silfverberg hasn’t scored a goal. However, the three worst forwards for the Ducks in through the first 10 games were Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler. They are supposed to be the Ducks’ best forwards, if not their best players. They have combined to score zero goals and six assists so far. While Perry and Kesler’s play has improved in the last few games, the fact of the matter is that the Ducks need these players to lead them to victory, and they have failed to do so.
The worst Ducks defenseman has been Sami Vatanen. His defensive play hasn’t been terrible, but he’s been pushed off the puck way too much in Anaheim’s own zone by opposing forwards. Also, he is easily the most offensively gifted defenseman on the Ducks’ roster and he only has one goal so far. While I’m not expecting him to lead the offensive charge, when the Ducks are struggling to score, he needs to be part of the solution to their offensive woes. I have no doubt that his play will improve, but he’s had a rough start to the season, as has the rest of the team.
In net, Frederik Andersen has easily been the Ducks’ best player. He has appeared in eight games, with a record of 0-5-2, but his lack of wins is far from his fault. When Andersen is in net, the Ducks have a huge problem scoring. They’ve been shut out five times, and in four of those, Andersen was the starter and came in for mop duty in the fifth. Despite his ugly win-loss record, Anderen has strong numbers to start the season with a goals against average of 2.05 and a save percentage of .932. He’s made a number of jaw dropping saves, and if the Ducks could score a couple of goals while he was in net, he’d have a few wins. Anaheim’s backup Anton Khudobin has had a rocky start to his Ducks career. He got pulled in his first game against Arizona after allowing three goals before the game was 13 minutes old. He was back in net against Minnesota a few days later and picked up the Ducks’ only win of the season and played a solid game. He was back in the next game against Nashville and got lit up in one of the worst games of the season by the Ducks. He didn’t play great, but a few of the goals against in that game were off of terrible defensive breakdowns made by the Ducks. Overall, outside of the game against Arizona, the Ducks’ goaltending has been solid and has been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dreadful season.
The Ducks haven’t had a lot of good games in the opening stretch of the season, but their best game was the 1-0 overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks launched nearly 40 shots on goal, and only the post and some amazing saves from Corey Crawford kept the Ducks from picking up their first road victory of the season. They played well and were dominant in the third period. If the Ducks can play more games like that, they should start putting a lot more wins on the board.
The Ducks have had some bad games, but the worst game this season was their 3-0 loss in Minnesota. After only one win in their first six games, the Ducks needed to come out with a strong game, but played an absolutely terrible game. The launched only 15 shots on goal in that game, and the most shots they managed in any one period was six. The Wild skated harder, played better, and if not for some amazing saves from Andersen, the Ducks would have lost the game in the first period.
A few more things that caught my eye over the last 10 games. First, after being acquired at the trade deadline last year, Korbinian Holzer finally made his Anaheim debut after Ducks lost Simon Despres and Manson to injury. Besides losing Despres and Manson to upper body injuries, the Ducks have also lost Getzlaf to appendicitis. Perry leads the team with three assists and is tied for the team lead with 22 shots. After appearing in one game during the first five and then being sent down to San Diego, Chris Wagner has returned to Anaheim and appeared in the last three games and played great in the Ducks’ bottom six. Despite appearing in only four games, he has 14 hits, tied for sixth on the team. He has yet to score, but has been one of Anaheim’s better players the last few games. Finally, ending on a bright note, the Ducks penalty kill is currently ranked second in the league, having killed off 90.9% percent of their penalties.
The Ducks are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history and find themselves at the bottom of the NHL standings. However, things aren’t as bleak as they appear to be. Back in 1996-97 season, the Ducks also started off with a record of 1-7-2 and they still made the playoffs that season. Perry, Kesler, Getzlaf, Silfverberg, and the rest of the forwards will start scoring goals. Their goaltending, defense, and penalty killing have been their strength this season; if they start scoring they will start collecting wins. Finally, in order to be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, the Ducks have to finish third in the Pacific Division. This season, the Pacific is weaker than many expected, and the Ducks are only seven points out of a playoff spot right now. While things have gone terribly, the Ducks still have a chance to turn things around, but they need to start right now. With six of the next seven games at home, the Ducks have a great opportunity to right the ship.
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