By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim has been one of the better teams in the league in 2017, and their 7-2-1 record over the last 10 games reflects that. The Ducks’ two regulations losses came at the hands of Minnesota, arguably the best team in the Western Conference this season.
Over the last 10 games, Anaheim’s best forward was Ryan Kesler. While his offensive numbers dropped to only five points in the last 10 games, he’s still Anaheim’s best forward on a nightly basis and his effort level surpasses almost everyone else on the roster. His three goals were tied for second on the team, and his five points were tied for fourth on the team. He continues to be Anaheim’s offensive and defensive leader this year and certainly earned his spot at the All-Star Game this weekend.
The Ducks’ worst forward was Jared Boll. He did record his second point of the season, but he’s just not adding enough to the team right now. While he can be a useful player to plug in on occasion, I’d rather see one of the young players from San Diego up and playing most nights over Boll.
I’m gonna cheat a little and name two players as Anaheim’s best defensemen over the last 10 games: Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler. It’s taken some time, but Lindholm is finally rounding into the form that led to his six-year extension. Defensively, he’s arguably been Anaheim’s best player over the last 10 games, using his body to effectively close out players and his skating and stickwork to thwart the opposition. Also, his offense is finally coming around, as he scored two goals and three points. Fowler continues to be a steady presence on Anaheim’s blueline, leading the group in ice time most nights and making the smart play at both ends of the ice. He’s the best skater on the Ducks, and he’s using that ability to its fullest this season. Just take a look at the shorthanded goal he had against Minnesota or the shorthanded assist he had against Winnipeg. He led the defense in scoring with four points.
The Ducks’ worst defenseman over the last 10 games was Sami Vatanen. In nine games he failed to score a goal and recorded only one assist. As one of Anaheim’s premiere offensive defenseman, those numbers have to be better. Defensively, he wasn’t atrocious, but he committed a number of turnovers that led to scoring chances against. His worst game was easily against Minnesota when the Wild seemed to just feast when he was on the ice. While some of the goals certainly weren’t his fault and some were simply a result of bad luck, his giveaway led directly to Minnesota’s second goal, bringing them back into the game. His poor performance against the Wild culminated in him being a healthy scratch in the game against Winnipeg. Hopefully, a game off will help him to refocus and come back and be the player we all know he can be.
John Gibson continued to get the lion’s share of the starts, starting eight of Anaheim’s 10 games. He’s been great in the new year, with a 5-1-1 record and one shutout. In his two losses, he only allowed two goals against in each game. It was Anaheim’s offense that failed in those two games, as the Ducks only mustered a goal in each. With Gibson getting so much playing time, Jonathan Bernier was used only sparingly but did get more playing time in the last couple of games as Gibson left the game against Minnesota with an injury. It’s nothing serious, but Bernier was given the start against Winnipeg to give Gibson a little more time to recover. Despite not starting, Bernier was given the loss against Minnesota because he was in net when the game-winning goal was scored. Bernier wasn’t great in that game against Minnesota, but he was also unlucky, as the Wild scored a few quick goals on defensive breakdowns, tips in the slot, and a bad angle shot that somehow found its way home. In his two starts, he got the win both times, looking very good against Winnipeg and shutting out Arizona.
Anaheim’s rookies and young players continued to have a strong season. At forward, Nick Ritchie scored two goals, including the game-winner late in the game against Colorado. He’s now eclipsed the 10 goal mark and currently has 11 on the season. Stefan Noesen was called up and scored one goal in five games, the second of his career. He’s been receiving primarily fourth line minutes. With injuries at forward he could get some more playing time going forward. Joseph Cramarossa scored only one goal but was effective on the fourth line and penalty kill. Ondrej Kase had a goal and three points. In close games, he’s been getting fewer minutes, as Randy Carlyle prefers to put out a more defensively oriented forward, but his play helped lead to Ritchie’s game-winning goal against the Avalanche. So even though he’s not getting a lot of time late in close games, he’s making the most of the chances that he’s getting. On the backend, Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour split time, as Theodore played in four games and Montour played in two. Theodore had two assists, including a nice one against Winnipeg on Ryan Getzlaf’s goal. Montour is still searching for his first career NHL point, but since returning to the AHL he has been tearing it up and will participate in the AHL All-Star Game.
A few more things that caught my eye in the last 10 games. Kevin Bieksa led the team with a +6 rating. He’s struggled this season but has been playing better of late. Rickard Rakell led the team with four goals and two game-winning goals. Getzlaf led the team with seven points in only seven games and was flat out dominant some nights. Corey Perry had two goals, six points, and multiple chances. This was arguably his best 10 game stretch this season and will hopefully carry over through the rest of the season. Logan Shaw scored his second goal as a Duck, a shorthanded goal against the Jets. Antoine Vermette only had one assist in the last 10 games but continues to lead the team in the faceoff circle. When Getzlaf missed a few games, Chris Wagner was recalled from San Diego and had one goal in three games.
On the injury front, Jakob Silfverberg has missed the last two games. It doesn’t sound like it’s a major injury, and for now, Shaw has taken his spot on the Kesler line. Clayton Stoner and Nate Thompson are both still out, but it sounds like they could both be back in the lineup soon after the All-Star break. Simon Despres remains out and there has been no update on him.
With seven wins in their last 10 games, the Ducks have put together one of their best 10 game stretches this season. One of the reasons for their record was that Anaheim has been able to win a couple of overtime games recently, with the overtime goals being scored by Rakell and Kase. Their strong play has them on top of the Pacific Division and solidly in playoff position.
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January 24, 2017