The Kesler Line Delivers

Photo: Chris Carlson, AP

Photo: Chris Carlson, AP

By Thomas Harrington

Instead of doing a 12 game review to finish off the season as I did a year ago, I decided to change it up this year and instead finish the season off with two 11 game reviews. The last 11 games saw the trade deadline pass, Anaheim set a franchise record 11 game win streak, and a mini-slump where they lost four of five games. Overall, the Ducks went 7-3-1 and picked up 15 points in the last 11 games.

I’m going to cheat a little and not name the best Anaheim forward in the last 11 games; instead, I’m going to name the best line. The Ducks’ checking line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano were easily Anaheim’s three best forwards in the last 11 games. Since they were put together a few months ago, they have rarely seen the ice without each other. Kesler was tied for the team lead with six assists and his 10 points were second on the team. Silfverberg’s five goals were tied for second, and he also picked up his first career hat trick against the New Jersey Devils. Cogliano only had five points, but his play perfectly encapsulates why this line is so good. Even when he doesn’t find the scoresheet, his speed, tenacity, and ability to forecheck make life miserable for the opposition’s top lines. They are things that all three players do very well. All three also see significant time on the penalty, and are three of the primary reasons why Anaheim has the top penalty kill unit in the NHL.

Photo: USA Today

Photo: USA Today

I’m going to cheat a little again and name the Ducks’ best defensive pair in the last 11 games: Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson. Since breaking into the league a few years ago, Lindholm has quickly become one of Anaheim’s top defenders, but has had some rough patches this season (including the recent loss to the Rangers). However, since he and Manson have been put together, his play has been much more consistent this season. Lindholm led the defense with six assists and seven points in the last 11 games. Manson doesn’t score much, though he did pick up four points in the last 11 games. Instead, his physical play and solid positioning are what makes him such an effective player on the ice. Together, the two have become the Ducks’ top shut down defensive pair. Their chemistry on the ice is unmistakable, as the two players read off of each other very well.

The worst Anaheim forward in the last 11 games was Mike Santorelli. As a player who primarily sees fourth line minutes, this may seem harsh, but he’s also a player who has shown a scoring touch and does get time in the top six, especially when the Ducks are going through injury issues. Overall, Santorelli appeared in 8 of 11 games and recorded no points. He found himself the healthy scratch in Anaheim’s last three games.

The worst Ducks defenseman in the last 11 games was Cam Fowler. I consider Fowler to be one of Anaheim’s top defenseman, but every player goes through a rough patch at some point, and this was his. He’s been pointless in his last seven games and had an ugly -4 rating in the loss to the St. Louis Blues. Part of the issue for Fowler was that he had a number of defensive partners over the last 11 games as Anaheim’s backend has been going through some injury issues. In fact, only Fowler, Lindholm, and Manson appeared in all 11 games.

In net, Frederik Andersen was almost unbeatable, winning four out of five games and picking up his second shut out of the season over the Boston Bruins. John Gibson played in six games but only got the win in three of them. However, of the two goalies, Andersen certainly received more goal support, such as the 7-1 win over New Jersey. For the most part, the Ducks have been giving each goalie two starts in a row and then cycling to the next one. This was interrupted when Gibson missed a game with the flu. It’s very possible that Bruce Boudreau could decide to keep up that kind of pattern through the rest of the season.

Nick Ritchie Scores His First NHL Goal and Jamie McGinn Makes An Impact

A few more things that caught my eye in the last 11 games. Nick Ritchie finally scored his first career NHL goal. Hopefully it doesn’t take him another 25 games to get his second. If Anaheim’s forward group gets healthy, expect him to head back to San Diego. Corey Perry led the team with six goals and 11 points in the 11 games, with six of those points coming on the power play. Deadline acquisitions Jamie McGinn and Brandon Pirri made their Anaheim debuts. McGinn has played in every game since the trade deadline and has scored five goals so far. He just goes to the front of the net and causes havoc. Pirri has only appeared in three games as he was injured when the Ducks picked him up from Florida. He hasn’t done a lot yet, but it’s clear that he has a very good shot. As he learns Anaheim’s system, I expect to see him start filling up the back of the net, especially on the power play. Stefan Noesen made his Anaheim debut this season against the Arizona Coyotes. It was his second career NHL game, having made his NHL debut last season. He played just over 10 minutes for the Ducks in that game. He had a slow start to the season in San Diego, but has been much better in the last few months of the season and definitely deserved this game. If Anaheim’s injury issues continue, he could get called back up and see some more time for Anaheim. Finally, Shawn Horcoff returned from his 20 game suspension, and it came at a great time as Nate Thompson has missed the last few games with an injury.

The Ducks have run into several injury issues in the last 11 games. Sami Vatanen has missed the last several games and it’s unclear when he’ll be back in the lineup. Kevin Bieksa also missed a few games, but he’s back in the lineup now. Both Simon Despres and Clayton Stoner missed some games in the last 11. Chris Stewart is still out with a broken jaw and it’s unknown how much longer he’ll be out for.

The Ducks took a bit of a stumble in their last 11 games, but have seemingly righted themselves with wins in their last two. There are only 11 games left in Anaheim’s season. The Ducks only need one point to clinch a spot in the playoffs. They have a real chance to win the division and face one of the wild card teams from the Central Division in the first round of the playoffs. If not, they would most likely face the San Jose Sharks in the first round, in a rematch of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Regardless of where they finish, the rest of the regular season should be a fun ride.

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