Ducks Surge Before Starting Difficult Road Trip

Photo: The Canadian Press

Photo: The Canadian Press

By Thomas Harrington

Anaheim’s offense finally came alive in the last 10 games, leading to a dominant record of 8-2, good for 16 out of a possible 20 points. The Ducks have won six games in a row and find themselves not only in a playoff spot, but with a legitimate chance at reaching second in the Pacific Division, something that seemed completely out of reach not too long ago. Overall, the Ducks scored 36 goals, averaging over three and a half goals per game. Besides their offense waking up, the Ducks’ defense continued its strong play, giving up only 20 goals.

Forwards

Anaheim’s best forward over the last 10 games was the newly acquired David Perron. Acquired for Carl Hagelin, he has been one of the primary reasons for the Ducks’ offensive turnaround. He played in only seven games, but scored three goals and eight points, the only player to average over a point per game in the last 10 games. He’s found a home next to Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Stewart on one of the Ducks’ top two lines. More than that, his arrival has allowed the Ducks to spread out their offense a little bit, putting Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell on a different scoring line, and Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg on a scoring/checking line. He won’t keep up this scoring pace through the rest of the season, but his arrival does allow the Ducks to become much more dangerous offensively going forward as the Ducks push for the playoffs.

The Ducks’ worst forward for the last 10 games was Shawn Horcoff. He played in only six games, but was then suspended for 20 games by the league for violating the NHL/NHLPA’s substance abuse policy. It’s not that he played poorly, but he was the only forward to go pointless in the last 10 games. Also, he’s a player who can help the Ducks’ fourth line, the penalty kill unit, and win important face-offs. The Ducks have given up a couple of power play goals in their last couple games. If he’s in, maybe one of those doesn’t happen. What it really comes down to is that it’s not that Horcoff played poorly, but his absence will hurt the team. I understand why he wanted to get healthier faster, but ultimately, it has hurt him and the Ducks in terms of forward depth.

Defensemen

The best defenseman for the Ducks in the last 10 games was Hampus Lindholm. He was arguably Anaheim’s best player, period. Scoring three goals in the last three games helped Lindholm’s cause in being the top Anaheim defenseman, but he was already playing at such a high level before his offense kicked in. It really started in the game against the Ottawa Senators. Erik Karlsson is Ottawa’s best player and the top Swedish defenseman in the NHL today, a spot that Lindholm would like to get to. In that game, Lindholm simply outplayed Karlsson throughout the contest. In the next game against Dallas, Lindholm was facing another of Sweden’s top defenseman. This time, it was John Klingberg and Lindholm was the better player again. He was able to maintain his high level of play through the rest of January and into February. In one of my favorite moments for Lindholm in the past 10 games, he took out Anze Kopitar with a clean hit. Milan Lucic went over and crosschecked Lindholm, putting the Ducks on the power play. Moments later, Lindholm faked out Kopitar and blasted the puck by Jonathan Quick.

The worst Anaheim defenseman was Korbinian Holzer. Holzer is a seventh defenseman and plays that role very well. However, now that the Ducks are finally getting healthy, it’s clear he’s more likely ninth or tenth on Anaheim’s depth chart. He only appeared in three of the Ducks’ last 10 games, and if the Ducks can remain healthy going forward, he’s unlikely to get back in the lineup in the future. It’s not that he’s played poorly, it’s simply that everyone else is a clear step above him.

Goalies

In net, both goalies played exceptionally in the last 10 games, both getting five starts. Frederik Andersen went a perfect 5-0 in his five games, allowing only nine goals total in those five wins. Andersen has been strong all season, but his win-loss record has been abysmal because of the low goal support he has received. Now that the Ducks have started scoring when he plays, he’s climbed back to over the .500 mark. John Gibson went 3-2 in his five games and pitched a shutout in his first All-Star appearance. He certainly can’t be blamed for either loss; he played very well in his three victories. He allowed 11 goals in his five games and helped the Ducks take their revenge on both Los Angeles and Detroit for recent losses this season.

Final Thoughts

A few more things that caught my eye in the last 10 games. Kesler and Getzlaf led the Ducks in scoring with 10 points apiece. Getzlaf also scored his first 5-on-5 goal of the season. Jakob Silfverberg has finally started to heat up and was arguably Anaheim’s second best forward, as he scored three goals and eight points. Rakell continued his strong season, picking up another eight points. He, Perry, and Patrick Maroon have developed some really nice chemistry together. Ryan Garbutt has been surprisingly effective in his first five games with the Ducks. He’s scored twice so far, and both goals turned out to be the game-winners.

Despite only appearing in seven games, Shea Theodore led the defense in scoring with six points, one more than both Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. If not for the glut of defensemen on Anaheim’s roster, he’d be in the NHL right now and not back in San Diego. With their increased offense, Anaheim’s skaters started fixing their bad +/- ratings. Clayton Stoner was the only player with a negative rating, and he was only a -1. Josh Manson led the way with a +8 rating, followed by Kevin Bieksa, Getzlaf, Kesler, and Perron, all of whom had a +7 rating. Several players now have an even or better rating this season, led by Perron at +7, Getzlaf at +6, and Manson at +5. Finally, both Cam Fowler and Simon Despres returned from injury in the past 10 games. Both are taking some time get back into the swing of things, but I think Despres has looked a little better than Fowler, probably because of the four games he spent in San Diego on a conditioning assignment.

Having finished off their best 10 game stretch of the season, the Ducks now head out on a brutal seven game road trip that will see them head east, swing around to western Canada, and finally return home for the final four games of the month.

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