By Michael Walters
The Anaheim Ducks started the 2017-18 season shorthanded in a year that was filled with plenty of twists and turns. The Ducks still managed to put together a solid regular season despite all the obstacles, but then found themselves being eliminated in the playoffs in the first round.
Before opening day the Ducks were without Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. Kesler had hip surgery and wasn’t planned to be back for several months. Lindholm and Vatanen missed the start of the season because each had shoulder surgery. Eaves was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome and only played in two games. Getzlaf would be in and out of the lineup for the first couple months for various reasons.
The Ducks were able to hang around in the standings for the beginning of the season. Randy Carlyle kept the team within striking distance. Anaheim also relied on John Gibson and Ryan Miller to carry the team. Bob Murray didn’t do much at the trade deadline, but he did add Adam Henrique earlier in the season as Sami Vatanen was sent to New Jersey. Henrique found a home on the third line and scored 20 goals for Anaheim, adding 16 assists.
The Ducks made their characteristic second half run and won the last five games of the season. With a month to go in the season, it wasn’t a certainty whether Anaheim would even qualify for the playoffs. Once the season ended, the Ducks amazingly found themselves in second place in the Pacific Division just ahead of the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks entered the playoffs with home ice and were on a winning streak, but it all came to a screeching halt when they faced the Sharks.
The Ducks squared off with the San Jose Sharks in the opening round. Anaheim had several problems in the series with San Jose. The Sharks had a good defensive system in place and were able to execute it. In the opening game, they clogged up the neutral zone and forced the Ducks to the perimeter when they were able to get into the Sharks zone. The Ducks got an early goal in Game 2, but the Sharks again stuck to their game plan eventually edging the Ducks by one goal. In Game 3, the Ducks lost their composure and imploded in an embarrassing 8-1 loss. Anaheim’s best game was the fourth game, but it was too late as they were swept.
Anaheim couldn’t get any offense going in the series. The Ducks only scored four goals to 16 for the Sharks. The top line had moments in this series, but the rest of the team struggled. The Henrique line that had provided secondary scoring in the season was kept off the board in the series. Anaheim was able to only score more than one goal in Game 2.
The Ducks had trouble in other areas besides the offense. Anaheim couldn’t play disciplined hockey and took 20 penalties to 12 for San Jose. There were some questionable calls or noncalls as there are in every playoff series, but the Ducks let their emotions get the best of them. The Ducks couldn’t play through the penalties and the Sharks capitalized on their power plays. The absence of Cam Fowler was greatly missed defensively for 5-on-5 and special teams play.
The Ducks simply couldn’t match the speed of the Sharks and it showed in all areas of the game.
The Anaheim Ducks had their exit interviews and to the displeasure of many, Randy Carlyle will be back next season as the coach. He did keep the team afloat at the beginning of the season and the Ducks made a strong playoff push, but the sweep by San Jose left a sour taste in the mouths of many. General Manager Bob Murray still has faith in Carlyle but feels the team needs to get faster and play more of a speed game.
The Anaheim Ducks did announce that Assistant Coach Trent Yawney would not be coming back as his contract was not renewed. The question is what else will Bob Murray do to improve the team in the offseason through the draft and free agency. The Ducks have several player contracts that need to be addressed this summer and at the end of next season. Anaheim has about $8-9 million in salary cap to work with this offseason.
For more on the Ducks offseason, click below to listen to our season recap podcast.
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 25th, 2018