By Thomas Harrington
Despite a few bumps in the road, the Ducks just finished up their best month of the season. The Ducks played in 14 games and had a record 10-3-1, giving them 21 points to start off 2017. One of the reasons for Anaheim’s strong record was the fact that the Ducks played in 10 home games and won six of them. Although the Ducks only had four road games, they won three of them. It also helped that the Ducks played against a number of the NHL’s weaker teams.
I’m going to cheat a little and not name one game as Anaheim’s best in January. Instead, I’ll name the three game series against Colorado as the Ducks’ best games in January. In a scheduling quirk, the Ducks and Avalanche played all three of their games in January, and Anaheim won all of them by a combined score of 11-3. While Colorado has struggled a lot this season, any time you can beat the same team three times in the same month by such a large margin is impressive. In the first game, the Ducks won 4-1; Jakob Silfverberg got the scoring started early and the team never looked back. The second game was the closest game of the three, despite the fact that it was arguably Anaheim’s best game of the three game series. The Ducks played their most dominant period of the season as they outshot the Avalanche 22-3 in the opening 20 minutes. Only an absolutely stellar performance by Calvin Pickard kept the game scoreless in the first. Nick Ritchie and Hampus Lindholm supplied all the offense Anaheim needed to pick up the win. In the final game, the Ducks took a 2-0 lead early in the second. Colorado did manage to close the gap to one, but Anaheim dominated the third and put up three goals in the final frame, leading to a 5-1 victory.
The Ducks’ worst game of January was their 4-0 loss to their Pacific division rivals the Edmonton Oilers. In a four-point game, Anaheim needed a better effort and didn’t get it. The Ducks didn’t actually play an awful game, as they actually played a decent first period. However, the Oilers got on the board early in the second, and finished off the middle frame with two more goals in the final couple of minutes. Another early goal in the third period effectively ended any hope of a comeback for Anaheim. As has been the case several times this season, the Ducks weren’t terrible, but did have a few minutes of poor play that led to an ugly final score.
On the special teams front, Anaheim’s powerplay went ice cold early in January, but it got better as the month went along. Overall, the Ducks scored six powerplay goals and connected on just over 15% of their opportunities. As a result, Anaheim’s powerplay fell down to seventh in the league, still pretty good, but not in the top five as they have been for much of this season. Anaheim’s powerplay goals were scored by Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Lindholm, and two from Silfverberg. While Anaheim’s powerplay struggled at times, its penalty kill unit was the best it has been this season, killing off just over 90% of the powerplays Anaheim faced, and allowed only four powerplay goals against. The Ducks also managed to score two shorthanded goals, meaning their penalty kill unit only gave up two more goals than it scored, pretty impressive over an entire month. The shorthanded goals were scored by Cam Fowler and Logan Shaw.
With their best month of the season behind them, Anaheim now needs to look forward and replicate that success in what will be a more difficult month. The Ducks will play in 11 games in February, and eight of them will be on the road. In fact, the month will open with a six-game road trip. Anaheim did a lot of things right in January and need to continue playing just as well, if not even better, as they spend a lot of time away from home.
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February 2, 2017