By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks had another strong month, as they won nine of 15 games in March and picked up 20 points overall. Anaheim currently finds itself neck and neck with Los Angeles for the lead in the Pacific Division, as just one point separates the two teams. This past month has also seen the value of trade deadline acquisitions Brandon Pirri and Jamie McGinn, as both have been finding the back of the net on a regular basis, especially McGinn.
The Ducks had several great games last month, but their best was the 3-2 victory over the Kings. That win was the Ducks’ 11th in a row, a new franchise record, and briefly vaulted the Ducks into first place in the Pacific Division. It was the first time all season the Ducks were on top of the division. Anaheim’s powerplay was perfect in this game, as it went two for two, with the goals being scored by David Perron and Jakob Silfverberg. Frederik Andersen had a strong game in net, turning away a number of high quality chances. It was another playoff like game between the rival teams, and many expect them to meet again in the playoffs, most likely in the second round.
Anaheim’s worst game in March was the 4-3 loss in Montreal. After being the best team in the NHL through the first month of the season, the Canadiens have been in a free fall ever since they lost Carey Price back in November. Their record has been abysmal ever since, and they are a team that the Ducks should beat. Making it even worse, if the Ducks had won this game, they would have clinched a playoff spot. Instead, they clinched a playoff spot in their next game in Toronto. This is a game that Anaheim should have had, but they were unable to do so.
The Ducks’ special teams continued their torrid pace in March. The Ducks scored over 10 powerplay goals and scored on almost 30% of their powerplay chances. Anaheim’s powerplay scoring was done by committee, as McGinn led the team with three powerplay goals, and Cam Fowler, Corey Perry, Hampus Lindholm, and Rickard Rakell were all tied the team lead in powerplay points with four. Other than giving up three powerplay goals to Toronto, Anaheim’s penalty kill unit was stellar, killing off over 86% of their shorthanded situations. Ryan Garbutt scored a shorthanded goal in the loss to the Maple Leafs. The Ducks’ special teams were so good last month that Anaheim now leads the league in both powerplay and penalty kill percentages. If Anaheim can finish on top of both categories, they will do something that no team has done since the mid-80s.
Another strong month has put the Ducks in the driver seat in their quest for the Pacific Division title. If they win out, they will finish ahead of both Los Angeles and San Jose and most likely face Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Ducks and Kings have one game left against each other, a game that will most likely decide who wins the division. If the Ducks finish second, they will most likely face San Jose to start things off. However, things are so close that the Ducks could fall as far back as third in the division. In order to guarantee having home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Ducks need to pick up at least five points in their final six games. The last six games will see the Ducks play three more games at home, followed by a three game road trip, including the makeup contest in Washington. Regardless of what happens, the final six games of the regular season should be exciting.