By Thomas Harrington
After burying themselves into an incredibly deep hole through the first month of the season, the Anaheim Ducks spent November doing their best to dig themselves out. While the team is still struggling with consistency, the Ducks did take a big step forward last month. Overall, the Ducks played 15 games in November and had a record of 8-4-3, good for 19 points. The Ducks have managed to claw their way back into the playoff race and sit four points out of a playoff berth.
It would be easy to say that the Ducks’ most recent win was their best game last month. They dominated Vancouver from start to finish and walked off with a 4-0 victory. However, I believe their 5-3 win over Calgary was Anaheim’s best game in November. Throughout the contest the Ducks were the better team, but after giving up a couple of rebound goals, Anton Khudobin was pulled when the Ducks trailed 2-0. Last season, when the Ducks were down by a goal or two, we all knew the team would fight back and probably pull out the victory.
This season has been the complete opposite as the team has seemed to wilt under pressure at times. However, against Calgary, they found their resolve and fought back and tied the game before the first period was over. The Ducks carried the play through most of the second, but the Flames were able to grab the lead once again late in the period. In the third, the Ducks were determined to not let this one slip away from them, tied the game up less than two minutes into the period, and took the lead a couple minutes later. They finished it off with an empty net goal in the final seconds of the contest. This was the first game all season where the Ducks decided that being down by a couple of goals didn’t matter and that they were going to keep playing their game. They were easily the better team and skated away with the win. The Ducks also were perfect on special teams in this game, as they scored on both of their power plays and killed off both Calgary’s power plays. Ryan Getzlaf finished the game with five assists, and it was easily his best game this season. John Gibson played well in relief of Khudobin and only allowed the one goal in the second period.
The Ducks’ worst game of November was their 5-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Ducks didn’t play terribly, and actually hit a few posts in the contest. If some of their earlier chances had gone in, it’s possible the game could have ended differently. However, while the Ducks didn’t play as poorly as the score would suggest, Tampa was still the better team. Steven Stamkos in particular had a great game, as he scored a fantastic goal off the rush and another on the power play. The Ducks simply had no answer for him and the rest of Tampa’s potent offense. Ben Bishop played well in net for the Lightning, and the few times the Ducks were able to beat him, the post was there for him.
Special Teams Play
After converting on only 10% of their power play opportunities in October, the Ducks significantly improved their play with the man advantage last month. The Ducks had the man advantage a total of 41 times and scored on 11 of them, scoring on almost 27% of their extra man opportunities. Corey Perry led the way with five power play goals for the Ducks, while Getzlaf led the team with six power play assists. The Ducks almost doubled their power play efficiency on the season, as they improved their percentage to 19.7% and now sit 14th in the league. Considering how poorly the Ducks’ offense, and their power play in particular, started the season, that’s a pretty amazing accomplishment. The Ducks won’t be scoring on nearly 30% of their power plays every month, but it’s nice to see them finally connecting on their chances.
The Ducks’ penalty kill continued its strong start to the season, as the Ducks killed off 47 of the 55 penalties they took in November, good for an effective rate of 85.5%. While that doesn’t quite match the rate at which the Ducks killed penalties in October, it was still good enough to keep the Ducks’ penalty kill unit as the number one shorthanded unit in the league at 87.5%. Andrew Cogliano scored one shorthanded goal for the Ducks in November.
The Ducks have a long way to go before they can be considered an elite team again, they took a lot of steps forward this past month in terms of getting back to that point. The biggest thing the Ducks need to work on is their consistency level. If they can play like they did against Calgary and Vancouver every night, they are going to win a lot of games through the rest of the season.
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