By Thomas Harrington
Despite a couple of ugly looking losses to Dallas and Calgary, Anaheim improved over the last 10 games compared to the previous 10. Overall, the Ducks went 6-3-1 and picked up 13 points. They are in the thick of things in the Pacific Division, as four teams are separated by just one point after Tuesday night. Anaheim scored a total of 30 goals in the last 10 games and allowed 32. However, if you take out the 14 goals combined that Calgary and Dallas scored in two games, things don’t look as bad.
Best And Worst Players
A number of forwards continued to play at a high level over the last 10 games, but once again Ryan Kesler was the Ducks’ best forward over that span and has been their best forward this season. His seven assists were tied for the team lead in the last 10 games, and his 11 points led the team. He continues to get things done with the man advantage; he has recorded two goals and five points. He also continued his domination in the faceoff circle and was the only Anaheim player to take over 200 draws in the last 10 games, winning over 57% of them. The only ugly stat that he had was a -4 rating, primarily because of the unsightly -3 rating that he had against Dallas.
For the third time in a row, Cam Fowler was the Ducks’ best defenseman. He was one of three Anaheim defensemen who scored a goal in the last 10 games and led the defensive core with five points overall. While he wasn’t quite as dominant as he was over the first 20 games of the season, he was still Anaheim’s best defender most nights.
Anaheim’s worst forward over the last 10 games was Ryan Garbutt. He did pick up a goal against San Jose, but his overall game this season has been a step back from last year. After playing in the first 27 games for the Ducks this season, he was placed on waivers and assigned to San Diego. With the Gulls, he hasn’t had much of an impact in the few games he’s played. Hopefully, he can turn things around in San Diego and make his way back to being a valuable member of the Ducks.
The worst defenseman over the last 10 games was Kevin Bieksa. He was the only Anaheim player to appear in all 10 games and not record a single point. His physical game should be an added benefit to the team, but it hasn’t been a huge help. He does have over 70 hits this season, but they just don’t seem to be having a big impact on the game. His drop in play has corresponded with less ice time and he has played less than 19 minutes for the last seven consecutive games, something that had only happened four times in the first 20 games this season.
In net, John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier manned the pipes for Anaheim in all 10 games. Both had one bad game but played well in their other appearances. Overall, Gibson went 4-2-1 and Bernier went 2-1-0. Other than the loss against Dallas, Gibson was solid if not spectacular, including a win against Carey Price and the vaunted Montreal Canadiens. Bernier played against San Jose twice and picked up the win both times. Outside of his loss to Calgary, he continues to be a solid backup option for Anaheim this season.
Anaheim Rookies Continue To Contribute
Anaheim’s rookies continue to be a huge part of this team. Ondrej Kase scored his first career goal and his four points were tied for tops among Anaheim rookies. Despite the lone goal, he easily could have scored more as he had several great chances and loves to shoot the puck. Joseph Cramarossa returned from injury and picked up his second career goal, along with an assist. After playing in one game for each of the last two seasons, Stefan Noesen was called up and finally scored his first career NHL goal. It’s been a long road for Noesen, as he has battled back from two major injuries that could have ended his career. Shea Theodore had four assists in the last 10 games. He’s still searching for his first goal this season but has been playing well for the Ducks. He’s still adjusting to the NHL level but he has a bright future ahead of him. Nick Ritchie, despite not being a rookie, is still part of Anaheim’s youth movement and had arguably the best 10 game stretch of his NHL career as he scored three goals and six points. He looks more confident in every game he plays and very rarely does he look out of place on the ice the way he did at times last season.
Corey Perry Finds Scoring Touch Again
A few more things that caught my eye over the last 10 games. After picking up his first goal of the season in the win over San Jose, Hampus Lindholm played his best game of the season against Ottawa. It’s taken a little while, but he’s finally rounding into last season’s form. If he keeps this up, he could supplant Fowler as Anaheim’s best defenseman over the next 10 games. After failing to score through almost 20 games, Corey Perry is starting to find the back of the net again and has scored three goals in his last four games. He and Ryan Getzlaf both had seven assists, tying them with Kesler for the team lead. Getzlaf was another player who broke a long goal drought and picked up two in the last 10 games. Despite missing two games, Rickard Rakell continued his torrid scoring pace as he lit the lamp four times in eight games. Sami Vatanen and Lindholm joined Fowler as the only defensemen to score in the last 10 games. Korbinian Holzer appeared in only one game in the last 10; Theodore played in the other nine. Holzer is a solid seventh defenseman, and that’s how he’s being used this season.
On the injury front, Simon Despres and Nate Thompson are both still out long term. Clayton Stoner is also still on IR and missed all of the last 10 games. He has a lower body injury and will probably not return to the lineup until 2017.
Despite a couple of ugly losses, Anaheim has continued to improve this season. They still have a long way to go before they are an elite team and are searching for a consistent effort on a nightly basis, but they continue to move in the right direction in almost every game. The top line is starting to score again and the line of Kesler, Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano continue to be a productive force, two things that are hopefully a good sign of things to come.
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December 14, 2016