By Thomas Harrington
Anaheim’s 40th game of the season coincided with their last game in December, so the 10 game and monthly reviews will be combined into one. The Ducks are finally getting healthy, and as a result, have started putting up more wins on the board. In the month of December, the Ducks went 7-4-2-2, picking up 18 points in 15 games. Six of those seven wins came in Anaheim’s last 10 games.
One of the primary reasons for Anaheim’s recent winning ways has been Ryan Getzlaf. He got healthy 10 games ago and has far and away been Anaheim’s best forward since his return. While he only scored one goal, he recorded 12 assists and 13 points in those 10 games, both of which led the team. No other player had more than 10 points and no other player had more than five assists. When Getzlaf is in the lineup, the Ducks are a much more dangerous and balanced team.
Anaheim’s best defenseman over the last 10 games was Cam Fowler. He led the defense with six points and was tied for the lead in goals with three. Besides his offensive contributions, he also led the Ducks in ice time in nine of the last 10 games. He plays in all situations and has been Anaheim’s best defenseman over the last 10 games–arguably for the season as well.
Anaheim’s worst forward over the last 10 games was Nick Ritchie. He played in seven games and recorded only one assist. He only has three goals and 10 points on the season. While it’s too soon to call him a bust, he’s definitely in the running for the most disappointing player in Anaheim this season.
The Ducks’ worst defenseman over the last 10 games was Francois Beauchemin. He played in nine games and failed to record any points. He turned the puck over a number of times in the defensive zone, leading to scoring chances against for the other team and a few goals against as well. He was a stalwart on Anaheim’s backend at the beginning of the season when the defense was in shambles from injuries, but he’s taken a step back over the last 10 games.
Anaheim’s best game in December was a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh. It was John Gibson’s first shutout of the season and his first win in his hometown Pittsburgh. The Ducks scored two goals in the first period, two more in the second, and shut things down in the third. While the Penguins have struggled at times this season, shutting out the defending back to back champs on the road is easily Anaheim’s best game in December.
The Ducks’ worst game in December was their 4-1 loss to Vegas. The Ducks actually had a good start to this game, as Rickard Rakell put them up 1-0 less than two minutes into the contest. The Ducks were the better team for much of the first, but former Duck Shea Theodore scored with just a few minutes left in the first period, and it was all Vegas from there. Former Ducks William Karlsson and David Perron also scored. The Ducks only had a combined 13 shots in the final two periods, not enough in a game where they trailed for most of that time.
In net, Gibson received a majority of the starts over the last 10 games and had a record of 5-2-1 in eight games while Ryan Miller went 1-1 in his two contests. Both goalies had some ugly moments, but overall, they’ve formed a strong backbone for a constantly injured squad. Both give the Ducks a chance to win every night, and there have been times where both have made some amazing saves. Gibson probably had the best save over the last 10 games when he stoned Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.
Anaheim’s special teams were just alright in the month of December. Their power play went five for 35 while their shorthanded unit killed off 37 of 45 opportunities. Anaheim’s powerplay goals were scored by Corey Perry, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette, Rakell, and Fowler. Silfverberg led the team with three powerplay points in December. Andrew Cogliano did score a shorthanded goal for the Ducks in December, their lone shorthanded tally. Miller played in four games in December and allowed five powerplay goals against, while Gibson allowed only three in his 11 starts, two of them coming in Anaheim’s most recent game against Arizona.
Anaheim used only two rookies over the last 10 games: Kevin Roy and Andy Welinski. Roy skated in eight games and scored two goals. As the Ducks get healthier, he’ll likely be headed back to San Diego, but he’s certainly opened some eyes in Anaheim, as he’s scored six goals in 23 games with the Ducks this season. Welinski made his NHL debut against Carolina and recorded his first career point in that game. Overall, he had two assists in four games before being returned to San Diego. He’s another of Anaheim’s many good, young defensive prospects and was the final player that Anaheim selected in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to skate in a game for the Ducks.
The Ducks are the healthiest they’ve been all season. Only Patrick Eaves, Mike Liambas, and Perry are currently on the injured list, though a number of other players did miss some time over the last 10 games. Thankfully, none of them were serious injuries. Perry is likely going to be back in the near future, giving Anaheim several offensive weapons to choose from. When healthy, Liambas will likely head back to San Diego. The real question mark here is Eaves, as there is still no timeline for his recovery. However, he did put in an appearance at Honda Center against the Coyotes, so hopefully, that’s a sign that he’s feeling better. As the Ducks have gotten healthy, a number of players have been assigned to San Diego: Welinski, Joseph Blandisi, and Dennis Rasmussen among them.
A few more things that caught my eye over the last 10 games. Rakell is on a five-game goal scoring streak, the longest of his career, and led the Ducks with six goals in the last 10 games. Hampus Lindholm scored the second hat trick by a defenseman in team history, while also giving the Ducks their first overtime win of the season against the Islanders. Josh Manson had five assists over the last 10 games, which led the defense and was second on the team. Ryan Kesler finally made his season debut and has two assists in three games this season. He looks a little rusty on the ice, but will hopefully soon be back to his old self. Chris Wagner appeared in all 10 games but failed to record any points. Silfverberg’s eight points were third on the team. Finally, Korbinian Holzer was a healthy scratch for all 10 games. With a healthy defense, he’s clearly the odd man out. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him placed on waivers and assigned to San Diego at some point.
Despite the myriad of injuries that they have suffered this season, the Ducks currently find themselves in the final playoff spot in the west. Now that the team is the healthiest it’s been all season, the Ducks need to start putting together some winning streaks to improve their playoff positioning.
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January 2nd, 2017