By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks had a strong January, picking up 15 points in 11 games. January was highlighted by an eight game home stand that saw the Ducks go 5-3. The Ducks finished out the first month of 2016 with back-to-back road wins in Boston and Detroit. The win in Detroit was Anaheim’s fourth straight regular season win at Joe Louis Arena. Anaheim did have its game in Washington postponed due to severe weather, and the game has not been given a makeup date yet. Overall, the Ducks had a record of 7-3-1 in January.
The Ducks had a few really strong games in January, but their best one was their most recent win over Boston. The Ducks scored six times with six different goal scorers. The six goals scored represented a season high for Anaheim. Besides the absolute explosion of offense, the Ducks played a very solid road game. Despite giving up an early goal, the Ducks were simply the better team throughout this contest. Frederik Andersen was in net for the Ducks and had another stellar performance. Ryan Garbutt picked up his first point as a Duck when he assisted on Mike Santorelli’s goal late in the third period. Shea Theodore had the first multi-point game of his career while David Perron had his first multi-point game as a Duck. Overall, it was a great finish to the month of January and sent Anaheim into the All-Star break on a high note.
The worst game of January for the Ducks was their 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. After starting off their long home stand with a convincing win over Winnipeg, Anaheim came out and looked like the early season Ducks. Anaheim didn’t start out poorly; they actually had a fantastic first period, but were unable to solve Jonathan Bernier in the opening period. However, after the Leafs went up by two, it seemed like the wheels just fell off. One thing to point out though, Toronto’s second goal came shortly after Corey Perry was hit in the head and it seemed like the team was still in shock when that goal was scored. The Ducks were able to put this loss behind them and beat St. Louis in their next game.
The Ducks’ power play has been up and down all season long, but it was definitely on the upside during January. Overall, the Ducks had 31 opportunities with the man advantage and scored seven times. Ryan Kesler led the way with three goals and four points, and Sami Vatanen was second with three points, all assists. Theodore picked up his first two career goals, both on the power play. The other power play goals were scored by Kevin Bieksa (his first goal as a Duck) and Hampus Lindholm.
The Ducks’ penalty kill has been great all season, but it may have been at its best during the month of January. The Ducks were shorthanded 39 times, but only allowed two goals while down a man. For a time, I wondered if the Ducks would kill off every penalty in January, but ended up giving power play goals to Los Angeles and Dallas. One power play goal was scored against John Gibson and one against Andersen. Despite the recent injuries to Cam Fowler and Clayton Stoner, the Ducks’ shorthanded unit has continued to hum, partially because young players like Theodore and Josh Manson have stepped up and played very well in their absence.
On the injury front, Simon Despres returned to action against Boston after being out since the fourth game of the season. Considering that it was his first NHL action in several months, he looked very good. Fowler missed the entire month, but will hopefully return in the near future. Stoner has had a nagging lower body injury and did not play for the last couple weeks of January. It’s unclear how much more time he will miss.
Shawn Horcoff was suspended for 20 games for violating the NHL’s substance abuse policy. He will be eligible to return in March. Finally, the Ducks made a couple of deals as they dealt Carl Hagelin to Pittsburgh for Perron and Adam Clendening. Clendening has since been placed on waivers and claimed by Edmonton. Perron has fit in nicely and scored at least one point in every game for the Ducks and has five points in four games. The Ducks also sent Jiri Sekac to Chicago for Garbutt. Garbutt has one assist so far, and will hopefully bring some more physicality to the fourth line.
With January over, the Ducks find themselves trailing Arizona by two points for the third playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The Ducks also have two games in hand on the Coyotes and will face them in the third game back after the All-Star break. The Ducks will also face off against the Sharks, Flames, Oilers, and Canucks in February, all teams in the Pacific the Ducks are jostling with for playoff position. If they can win all of those games, the Ducks will be in a very good spot at the end of February.
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