By Thomas Harrington
After being a game under .500 in October, the Ducks had a much better November with a record of 8-4-2. Their 18 points this month gives them 26 on the season, tied for second in the Pacific Division. While November was a month marked by inconsistency, it was still a notable improvement over October, a good sign for the Ducks going forward. If they can continue to improve every month (or even most of them), Anaheim will be well positioned for the start of the playoffs.
The Ducks had some great games in November, and the wins over division rivals Calgary, Arizona, and Edmonton were very impressive, as was their recent victory over Montreal, but Anaheim’s best game in November was their first game of the month against Los Angeles. Anytime you can beat your cross-town rivals by four goals is a good night. When you shut those rivals out for their third straight game, well, that makes it even more special. John Gibson was solid in net, stopping all 30 shots he faced, and Anaheim won over 60% of the faceoffs in the game. Rickard Rakell scored his first goal in his first game of the season and picked up a couple of assists. Joseph Cramarossa scored his first career goal and Anaheim scored two powerplay goals on four chances in the game, while only taking one minor penalty. Overall, it was a solid performance throughout the lineup.
The Ducks also had a couple of bad games, and their loss to Pittsburgh would have been their worst game of the month if not for their loss in Nashville 10 days later. Just over two weeks after Anaheim decimated Nashville at home, the Predators were looking for revenge and got it with a 5-0 win. The Ducks actually played a pretty well first period, but Ryan Ellis scored with just seconds left in the period, a sign of things to come. Nashville scored three more times in the second period before picking up the final goal of the game in the third. Anaheim failed to score on six powerplay chances while allowing one powerplay goal against. The Ducks also lost the faceoff battle for one of the few times this season, winning only about 42% of the draws in the game.
In terms of special teams, Anaheim saw its powerplay improve significantly while its penalty kill fell off somewhat. After scoring on just under 20% of their powerplays in October, Anaheim scored 11 powerplay goals in November, scoring on just over 24% of their chances. Ryan Kesler led the way with four goals, followed by Cam Fowler and Rakell, who both had two. Anaheim’s other powerplay goals were scored by Ryan Getzlaf, Antoine Vermette, and Kevin Bieksa. Despite not scoring any powerplay goals, Corey Perry had seven powerplay assists and his seven powerplay points were tied for the team lead with Kesler in November. After killing over 83% of the penalties the team took in October, Anaheim’s penalty kill percentage fell to 82% in November. The Ducks actually gave up seven powerplay goals in November, the same number they gave up in October. The difference is that Anaheim was shorthanded fewer times in November when compared to October. So while the percentage dipping is troubling, the fact that Anaheim was able to stay out of the penalty box more often is a good sign. Anaheim did not score any shorthanded goals in November.
After a disappointing opening month of the season, Anaheim has started to turn things around. A solid record against the Pacific Division and beating the NHL’s best team are all signs of significant improvement for the team, but losses to Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Chicago show there is still work to be done. The Ducks are still a long way from being considered one of the elite teams in the NHL. Going forward, Anaheim needs to continue scoring on the power play and staying out of the penalty box, but their penalty kill numbers are going to need to improve going forward. A busy December schedule will really show what kind of team Anaheim is, especially with 11 games on the road.
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November 30, 2016