By Thomas Harrington
Despite being beset by a myriad of injuries, the Ducks put together a solid first month of the season, going 6-4-1 and picking up 13 points in 11 games. Depending on how other teams finish out October, those 13 points have the Ducks either in a wildcard spot or just outside the playoff picture. With so many key players out, that’s a great sign for Anaheim going forward. If this team can get healthy, they have the potential to be a very good team.
Anaheim had a few great games in October, including a pair of 6-2 victories, but Anaheim’s best game was their 4-1 win over Tampa Bay. Coming into the season, a lot of people had the Lightning as one of the Stanley Cup favorites, and their play this season hasn’t disappointed. The Lightning has been the best team in the league, and this loss was their only loss at home this season and just their second regulation loss of the season. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have been absolutely dominant, as Stamkos leads the NHL in points and Kucherov leads the league in goals. Both of them have scored at least one point in every single game this season, except in the loss to Anaheim. John Gibson was spectacular in net, and the returns of Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen bolstered Anaheim’s defensive play. Offensively, Anaheim’s top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Rickard Rakell proved to be the best offensive trio of the game, and they combined for six points.
Anaheim’s worst game of October was their 8-3 loss to Florida. Coming just a couple of days before their big win over Tampa, the Ducks were unprepared for the Panthers. For whatever reason, the Ducks just do not play well against Florida, and it showed in this one. The Panthers scored on their first two shots, Radim Vrbata had a hat trick, and Florida cruised to the big win. The only highlight of the night for Anaheim was that Kalle Kossila scored his first career NHL goal.
On the special teams front, Anaheim’s power play opened the season in about the worst way possible. It took several games for Anaheim’s powerplay to get its first goal of the season, which Derek Grant scored against Montreal. The Ducks actually went two for two with the man advantage against Tampa, one of the key reasons for their victory. In the Ducks’ most recent win over Carolina, the Hurricanes did not commit any penalties. The Ducks now have four powerplay goals this season, but still rank 29th overall in the league. Still, the unit has been much better in recent games, and as long as they can get their chances, the 12.1% success rate should improve.
While the power play has struggled, Anaheim’s penalty kill unit has been much more successful, which is a bit of a surprise considering how many key defensemen have missed time this season, and the fact that Ryan Kesler has not played a game. The Ducks were shorthanded 51 times in October and allowed only eight goals against. Their 84.3% success rate is good enough to be one of the top 10 penalty kill units in the league. So the Ducks can definitely improve their shorthanded unit, but it’s off to a strong start this season. Anaheim has also already scored three shorthanded goals this season, as Cam Fowler, Brandon Montour, and Chris Wagner have all scored while the Ducks have been down a man.
Given how many injuries the Ducks have, Anaheim has to be happy to be two games above the .500 mark. Hopefully, the team can keep getting healthy through November and we can see how good this team really is.
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October 31st, 2017