By Thomas Harrington
The Ducks were on fire through the end of the regular season, picking up four wins in five games in the month of April and nine wins in the final 12 games of the regular season. With the end of the regular season, I’ll be combining both the April and 12 game reviews into one post. Also, because of how well the team played down the stretch, I’ll only be focusing on the positives, and not going over what went wrong to end the season. Anaheim wasn’t expected to finish on top of the division again, but they definitely earned it, as they were one of the best teams at the end of the regular season and one of the best home teams in the NHL this year.
The Ducks’ best game in April was their 4-0 victory over Chicago. Even though the Blackhawks were missing some of their key players, they still had Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Corey Crawford in the lineup. Also, the Ducks were without the services of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Nate Thompson, and Jaycob Megna made his NHL debut. Corey Perry got things started on a pretty passing play that was set up by Rickard Rakell and Sami Vatanen. Chris Wagner scored his sixth of the season in the second, a new career high for him. Ryan Kesler and Rakell both scored in the third to send the Anaheim fans home happy.
I’m going to cheat a little and name two players as Anaheim’s best forwards over the final 12 games: Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Eaves. Getzlaf has been an absolute force in the second half of e season and finished third in assists in the NHL this season. He scored one goal and 15 points in the final 12 games. Eaves led the team with nine goals in the final 12 games, and his 10 points were tied for second on the team. Together, Eaves and Getzlaf have formed a dangerous duo, giving Anaheim’s offense another option to put on the ice together.
The Ducks’ best defensemen over the final 12 games was Lindholm. He did miss two games with an injury but returned to play in the final game of the regular season. With Fowler out for the foreseeable future, the Ducks will need Lindholm to step up his play in the playoffs even more. If he can keep playing like he is right now, he’ll be the Ducks’ top defensemen in the postseason.
John Gibson was finally healthy and started three games in April, picking up the victory in two of them. His lone loss was in overtime to Edmonton, and he was Anaheim’s best player in that game. He shutout Chicago in his final start of the regular season, stopping all 37 shots he faced. Jonathan Bernier played in two games in April and picked up the win in both. He was in net for one of Anaheim’s few overtime victories this season, when the Ducks defeated the Kings in the final game of the regular season.
Anaheim’s power play came alive in April, but it was in a small sample size. In 17 opportunities, the Ducks scored five times. Eaves led the team with two power play goals, and Corey Perry, Antoine Vermette, and Getzlaf scored the other three powerplay goals. Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, and Fowler led the team with two power play assists each. While the Ducks’ powerplay looked good in a small sample size, their penalty kill faltered, as the Ducks were shorthanded 19 times and allowed four powerplay goals against. Bernier allowed three of those power play goals. Hopefully, Anaheim’s penalty killing will return to form in the playoffs. Josh Manson scored Anaheim’s lone shorthanded goal.
Anaheim continued to get contributions from their rookies and young players, especially from their young defensemen. Nick Ritchie scored two goals and four points, giving him 14 goals in his first full NHL season. He will also miss the first game of the playoffs, as he was suspended for his actions against Chicago. Ondrej Kase played in only three games and recorded one assist. Megna played over 15 minutes in his NHL debut and had a +1 rating against Chicago. Shea Theodore played in four of Anaheim’s final 12 games and scored the overtime goal in the final game of the regular season. Brandon Montour played in 10 of Anaheim’s final 12 games and scored one goal and four points.
On the injury front, Fowler is Anaheim’s biggest miss right now. He’ll be out for two to six weeks and is almost assuredly going to miss the entire first round series against Calgary. If the Ducks advance, hopefully, he’ll be able to return to action, but it’s unknown when he’ll be ready to go. Both Vatanen and Lindholm missed some time down the stretch, but both returned to action before the season ended and look ready for the playoffs. Eaves suffered a minor injury against Los Angeles but has been declared ready to go for game one. Clayton Stoner still isn’t ready to go, although he did go to San Diego and get in a few games in the AHL, where he scored a goal and had a fight.
A few more things that caught my eye over the last 12 games. After missing most of the season with an injury, Thompson finally scored his first goal of the season in the final game of the regular season. Perry scored five goals and increased his season total to 19. He had a forgettable season but was better down the stretch. Hopefully, he’ll be better in the playoffs. Rakell was second on the team in assists with seven and tied for second on the team in points with 10. He’s scored over 30 goals this year and will hopefully continue his scoring rate against Calgary. Silfverberg and Kesler both had eight points to close out the season, as the shutdown line continues to put up points. Kevin Bieksa scored his third goal of the season, and it ended up being the game winner. Manson led the defense in goal scoring with two goals.
With a fifth division banner in a row, Anaheim will be looking to have a better postseason showing than they have over the last four years. If they can keep playing the way they have to finish off the regular season, they’ll give themselves an excellent chance to do so, especially in a fairly wide open western conference.
Want to start your sports media career? Then Join The Puck Network!
DucksNPucks is part of The Puck Network, which covers the entire NHL. There are openings to cover your favorite team(s) and earn school credits! If you are interested, then apply by filling out the form here: Join Our Team. What are you waiting for? Start your sports media career TODAY!
April 12th, 2017