By Thomas Harrington
After a poor month of play in February, the Ducks had a dominant March, going 10-2-1-1 and picking up 22 points in 14 games. The most amazing part of this is that the Ducks did this largely without the services of John Gibson. Gibson only played in one game in March, picking up the loss in St. Louis. With Gibson injured, Jonathan Bernier has really stepped up his game and been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL over the previous month. The playoffs are almost here, and to the surprise of many, Anaheim leads the Pacific Division and has a legitimate shot at winning it. Regardless of where they finish, the Ducks have clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight season and will be looking to put the bad memories of last season’s disappointing first round exit behind them.
Anaheim’s best game of the month was their 5-2 win over the league-leading Washington Capitals. For pretty much the entire season, Washington has been the class of the NHL and will likely win the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s best regular season team. However, on a night when the Ducks were celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their 2007 Stanley Cup, Anaheim played one of its best games of the season. Neither team lit the lamp in the opening 20 minutes, but the Ducks got the goal scoring started in the second. It’s been a largely forgettable season for Corey Perry, but he’s been better of late, and he got the scoring started in this one. Before the period was over, Perry scored again and Rickard Rakell scored his team-leading 29th of the season. The Ducks held a 3-1 lead going into the third and looked to be in firm control of the game. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler scored in the third, giving Anaheim a strong victory over the league’s best team.
The worst game of the month of March was their 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg. Two goals from Perry and one from Jakob Silfverberg gave Anaheim a 3-1 lead after two periods. However, in the third, Winnipeg ramped up their pressure and tied the game up with 12 seconds left in regulation. Mark Scheifele completed the comeback when he scored the game winner late in overtime. After a strong opening 40 minutes, it was a disappointing end. Hopefully. the Ducks will learn a lesson from this game and not let up on any opponent as the playoffs approach.
On the special teams front, Anaheim’s powerplay continues to struggle, but their penalty kill remains one of the team’s strengths. On 40 powerplay opportunities, the Ducks only scored five times. Getzlaf led the team with two powerplay goals, and Perry, Kesler, and Silfverberg scored the other three. No Anaheim defenseman scored a powerplay goal. Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen led the defense with two powerplay assists each. The Ducks were shorthanded 43 times in March and allowed only six powerplay goals against. Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Fowler, Kesler, Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano did a great job of anchoring the penalty kill unit, and Bernier was ready to make the big save when the players in front of him made a mistake. The Ducks scored two shorthanded goals in March, as Getzlaf and Manson both found the back of the net while the team was down a man.
With March over, the Ducks only have five games left this season. With a playoff spot wrapped up, all that remains to be seen is who the Ducks will face. While I don’t have a particular matchup that I want the Ducks to have, there’s no question the Ducks would rather have home ice advantage in the first round. Finishing first or second in the division will guarantee that, and that should be the team’s focus as the season winds down.
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April 1st, 2017