By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks have had an up and down season so far, and no month of the season has reflected that as well as December did. Overall, the Ducks played in 15 games and had a record of 7-4-4, giving them 18 points in the final month of 2016. Anaheim played in 11 road games in December.
The Ducks had some big wins over division rivals in December, but Anaheim’s best game in the last month was their 5-1 win over Ottawa. Their special teams were excellent, they controlled the play through most of the contest, and the secondary scoring came through. The Ducks started out the game strong and Joseph Cramarossa got the scoring started with his second career NHL goal. Ottawa did tie the game up, but it wasn’t long before Corey Perry scored Anaheim’s first powerplay goal of the night, and the Ducks never looked back. Antoine Vermette scored Anaheim’s second powerplay goal of the period before the first was over, and the Ducks held a 3-1 lead after the first 20 minutes. Nick Ritchie got Anaheim’s fourth goal in the second period, Sami Vatanen scored another powerplay goal in the third, and Anaheim went three for four with the man advantage. This game also featured Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and Ritchie, the three players that Anaheim received from Ottawa when they traded Bobby Ryan. Overall, it’s safe to say that Anaheim has gotten the better end of that deal so far.
The Ducks had some really awful games in December, but the worst was their 8-3 loss in Calgary. The Ducks have owned Calgary at home for well over a decade now, but results in Calgary have been a little more mixed, and this game was just terrible. It was Johnny Gaudreau’s first game back after missing 10 games, and he set the tone early with a goal just a couple of minutes into the game. The first actually ended with the Ducks down only 1-0 and things didn’t look too bad, but things quickly fell apart in the second, in what was quite possibly Anaheim’s worst period of play over the last several seasons. Ryan Kesler actually tied the game up just a few minutes into the period, but Troy Brouwer put Calgary up about half way through the period, and the goals just kept going in after that. The Flames scored five goals in the second period, plus two more in the third before Anaheim found the back of the net again. Jonathan Bernier and the defense all had off nights, and the forwards weren’t any better. The only real positive from this game is that Logan Shaw got his first goal as a Duck.
Anaheim’s powerplay continued to be special in December, but their penalty kill took a big step back. The Ducks had 47 powerplay opportunities in December and scored 13 times, boosting their powerplay up to second in the league. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets have a better man advantage than Anaheim does right now. Ryan Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler led the team with six powerplay points each. Rickard Rakell, Vermette, Perry, and Kesler all scored two powerplay goals; the other five were scored by Shea Theodore, Vatanen, Cam Fowler, Silfverberg, and Getzlaf. The Ducks were shorthanded 55 times in December and allowed 11 goals against. The penalty kill unit did improve towards the end of the month, so hopefully that trend continues as January begins. Getzlaf did score a shorthanded goal for the Ducks in December.
Anaheim’s inconsistencies didn’t just continue in December; they were shown in even more stark contrast. The Ducks played some truly great games against Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, but were just blown out by Calgary, Montreal, and Dallas and stumbled in their final visit to the Joe Louis Arena. In some of those bad games, it was an unlucky goal or two that the Ducks were never able to recover from. In others, it was a goalie who just shut Anaheim’s offense down. Finally, in some, the Ducks were just plain bad. As 2017 begins, the Ducks have a lot of kinks they need to work out going forward. Right now, they are playing well enough to make the playoffs, but not well enough to advance beyond the first round.
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December 31, 2016