The Road Trip is (finally) Over

Zach Hyman, Ryan Miller, Francois Beauchemin

Well it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it definitely wasn’t the way we wanted it to go.

The road trip started with such promise, beating Boston one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Then, we went to the other side of the spectrum and played Ottawa, one of the worst teams in the league this year and lost in overtime, snapping their losing streak.

The next two games were a real rough ride, we got outscored 12-6. While we held up our own with six goals, letting in 12 over the two games is not a great look when we need to be pushing for playoff spots, in one of the most competitive divisions NHL has. The trip ended positively with a win in Buffalo thanks to Rico’s beautiful top shelf wrister on Lehner’s blocker side.

What we can takeaway

Perry is on fire, no game showed it more than the 7-4 loss in Toronto. Perry got 4 assists, meaning he had a hand in every goal. Apart from the obvious stats, his work rate and push was something we absolutely need from the veterans.

The top line is back together, Perry, Getzlaf and Rakell. We are producing goals and staying in games, more than our offense has mustered in the past, if our back end can improve we have a much easier job ahead of us.

Miller was in net for all four games on the road, and while many of the goals scored were definitely not his fault, letting in 17 goals over four games is not what you want from the net minder, and getting Gibson back would be a huge relief. Miller did his job, and the responsibility falls on the defense as well, but this does not look like a 1A/1B pairing.

Overall, we went in holding a playoff spot and came out with nothing, and to make matters worse everyone else in the playoff hunt has more games in hand than the Ducks, excluding the Stars. Tonight was a must win, but it is clear from here on out there is even less room for mistakes.


Anaheim Ducks Half Season Recap

Ducks recap
Mel Zetz
NHL/Ducks Writer

Just like that, we’re halfway through the NHL season (well…we’re actually 50 games in), and the Ducks are on the outside looking in. The two-time defending Pacific Division champs are currently sitting at 5th place in their domain that they have commanded in recent years. If that isn’t concerning enough, they are sitting outside of the Western Conference Wild Card race as well. But now is no time to panic, the Ducks have been here before, and seem to find a catalyst from the All Star break to spark a second half run, and look poised take on the challenge this year.

The 2015-16 Ducks closed out the first half of the season at 22-18-7 (51 points), averaging a paltry 1.085 points per game. Come second half, the red hot Ducks finished strong at 46-25-11, clinching first place in their division and averaging an impressive 1.486 points. Similar story last year (although with a considerably better start), the Ducks started 27-15-9, averaging 1.245 points per game. Enter the post-All-Star Ducks, boosting that average to 1.355, proving to be one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season, along with the returning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and once again claiming their position at the top of the coveted Pacific Division.

History tends to repeat itself, as the Ducks are not exactly where they would like to be – posting a meager 1.14 points per game, and sitting outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (although very much in the race). But if slow starts have become this team’s M.O., digging themselves out tends to follow. The Ducks finished strong at 6-2-2 (14 points) in their last 10 games, accounting for 25 percent of their total points in just 20 percent of the season. Although the sample size is small, the other variables involved include the return of a couple familiar faces in Ryan & Ryan, leaving Ducks’ fans hopeful entering All-Star Weekend.

Being plagued by injury certainly didn’t help the Ducks case early on, and fans can breathe a sigh of relief with the return of their stars, led by none other then El Capitan, Ryan Getzlaf. Getz’s impact on this team cannot be put into words. He’s the Captain, the vocal leader, and the heart and soul of this roster. Intangibles aside, his impact on the game cannot be understated (not that any fans of this team would…). The 32 year old veteran has shown zero signs of slowing down, leading the entire NHL with 0.96 assists per game, posting 25 in the 26 games he’s played. His name is up there with NHL superstars like Brad Marchand (BOS), NHL point leader Nikita Kucherov (TB), and Nathan McKinnon (COL), trailing only these three names in points per game, with an impressive 1.192. Getzlaf is truly a player who makes everyone around him better, as the Ducks are 16-8-2 with him in the lineup – accumulating 68% percent of the teams total points in just 26 games! His presence will be instrumental in bringing them back to the playoffs for the 6th straight season.

Another storyline this year has been the continued progression of the young Swedish scorer, Rickard Rakell. Slick Rick lit the lamp 18 times this year, and leads the whole team in goals, and total points, with 36. Rakell is the Ducks’ lone All Star this season, and is on pace to post 59 points. The last Duck not named Ryan Getzlaf to score 60 points in a season was Corey Perry in the 2015-16 season, and Rakell is showing all the signs of being the star this team needs. At only 24 years old, he’s improved every year in terms of point scored, and has all the potential to be a premier scorer in this league. His performance is only looking to improve with the consistent presence of the league’s best assist man by his side.

The acquisition of Adam Henrique could play big in the second half for Anaheim. Acquired in a trade in late November for defensemen Sami Vatanen, the 27 year old vet, and consistent 40-50 point player helped contribute to the late offensive surge the Ducks displayed. In just 25 games as a Duck, Henrique added 15 points, closing out the first half with a 5 game scoring streak, scoring 4 goals and two assists. He’s a fun player to watch, and you got to love a player who posterizes the guy he’s traded for shortly thereafter.

Our own Iron Man, Andrew Cogliano had to say goodbye to his 830 game streak (4th longest in NHL history) due to a 2 game suspension for his hit on Adrian Kempe of the Los Angeles Kings. Bias aside, we can admit the hit was late. We can also admit him receiving a 2 game suspension in a sport where we cheer on guys who drop their gloves and exchange fists (in most cases outside of a hockey rink, we’d consider this assault), is kind of funny. Cogs is a gritty player and it was sad to see his streak go. You can see it in his emotional interview here. You can’t help but feel bad for a guy who is as truly passionate for the game as he is.

Some other notables from this season have been Josh Manson, Antoine Vermette, and Hampus Lindholm. Manson came out of nowhere, contributing 23 points, surpassing our normal offensive contributing defenseman, Cam Fowler (18 points). Vermette, the 35 year old faceoff specialist, won 526 of his 876 faceoffs. That’s 60 percent, and second in all of the NHL. This is a huge asset to have, and we will see the value in big moments. Lindholm is an exciting young player to watch, and a staple of the defensive corps. He’s had some big moments this year, including clinching the victory over the Islanders on December 22nd with his hat-trick, overtime goal.

Corey Perry and Jakob Silfverberg are both on pace to post 40 points, and their continued consistent production will be important to the teams success. The young Ondrej Kase has also been a consistent contributor with double-digit goals and assists (12,10).

The goalie play has been slightly above average. John Gibson missed some time, where we got to see Ryan Miller flash his glove. Miller did an excellent job filling in for 14 games, posting a .929 save %, which would rank top 5 in the league (if he had started the required amount of games). Gibson himself hasn’t been too shabby, ranking above average in terms of save percentage. We can expect the few days of rest to do Gibby well, as it’s always difficult battling ailments, especially at goalie.

As mentioned before, we’re all excited for Ryan Kesler’s return. Kesler began the season out indefinitely because of an offseason hip surgery. Since his return in late December, Kesler has provided a spark. The Ducks went 8-4-1 with him in the lineup. Kesler’s value as a leader was also missed, and you never want a high-40 to high-50 guy absent from your lineup. Not to mention, every team needs an instigator, and Kesler is top-notch when it comes to getting into the heads’ of opponents.

The Ducks open up the second half with a 5 game road trip (10-8-6 on the road), and a very difficult matchup in Boston – against a top 3 team in the NHL. With all the pieces seemingly falling into place at the right time, and just 1 point out of a divisional playoff spot, and a tiebreaker out of a wildcard spot, we can be excited for another thrilling second half of Anaheim Ducks hockey. Keep calm and quack on.

Freeway Face-off Round 4!

The hockey gods have benevolently given us another great match up against our rivals the Los Angeles Kings, and better yet we snagged another win. What a different game from last weekend’s match up, no fights as opposed to the three to start the game last weekend. The goalposts on both ends made a valiant effort, especially against Rickard Rakell, but their heroics could not stop the scoring.

No goals in the first two periods, and Anaheim finally stayed out of the penalty box. Our penalty kill did its job ending perfect on the night.

For the Ducks’ first goal, all I can say is Adam Henrique is a gem, it’s mostly just perseverance for him to get that puck in the back of the net, and incidentally himself as well.

The Kings didn’t stay behind for much tying the game a little under three minutes later. Iafallo is left alone on Gibson’s right side to put it home as everyone bunches up in front of the crease.

Lastly, the beaut that puts the Ducks ahead is started by a slapper from Beauchemin then redirected by Kesler through Quick’s five-hole. Jonathan Quick, by the way, put an absolute clinic in the first two periods, an immense performance that came up short thanks to Kesler.

Overall, another great performance for the Ducks to add onto the win against the Penguins. Last weekend I mentioned how the win against the Kings could be the spark to start a streak, but it showed not to be the case as we quickly lost to the Avs a couple days later. Getzlaf also gave Ducks’ fans a small heart attack getting off the ice gingerly late in the first period. Thankfully, he came back for the opening face-off of the second period. Next game is against the Sharks on Sunday at home. It’s a hard game, but the schedule is basically begging us to get ahead on the Pacific Division. The playoff race is tight, but not impossible, stay tuned here for all updates!

Freeway Face-off Round 3!

Anaheim Ducks 4-2 Los Angeles Kings

The third meeting of the season between the Ducks and Kings started off with a great display of respect to Kings legend Bob Miller and a banner raising in his honor. Not to be out-shined by Bob’s ceremony the Ducks started the period with an appetite for fighting, just two minutes into the first period the gloves were dropped three times. Here’s a quick rundown..

Jared Boll vs. Kurtis MacDermid : (MacDermid of the big hit on Kase fame to take him out early in the season) in my biased opinion slight edge to Mac.

Kevin Bieksa vs. Andy Andreoff : Rematch of a fight earlier this season which ended with Bieksa’s trademark one punch finish. In my opinion edge to Bieksa, Andreoff looked very beat up in the box after this one, either that or he’s an easy bleeder, your call.

Nick Ritchie vs. Kyle Clifford : The last fight of the night was an energized scrap from Ritchie, got some good hits and did not want that one to end as he kept chuckin’ knucks as they hit the ground, looks like it got him inspired enough to have a great rest of the game.

Let’s start off with this, the Ducks finally got some much needed points off Pacific Division opponents, and even better against our rivals. We just set a great starting point for a desperately needed win streak. Next up is Colorado which is attainable points and would be great to get some momentum going.

The Ducks played overall some great hockey against the Kings, and showed some really great puck possession and ability to set up in the LA zone throughout most of the game. Quick let in an ugly first goal from a bad angle shot provided by Ondrej Kase. The second goal was on the power play from Ryan Kesler. Kesler brought down an airborne pass and proceeded to snipe top shelf on Quick’s glove side paving the way for a small but satisfying celly for such a great goal. Lastly, another mistake from Quick trying to play the puck out from behind the net followed by Ritchie’s heads up play to give Kase a great shot at an empty net.

The third period the Kings pushed on a Ducks team cruising with 3-0 lead and got the results they wanted. Beauchemin left his man to pressure the puck and the Ducks got punished. Soon after Kopitar comes down the slot and whoa! whats this, a rebound off Gibson? Yup. He proceeds to beat Gibby and bring them within one.

Despite an admirable effort from the Kings in the last 10 minutes of the game, Scorey Perry’s cross ice shot into the empty net sealed. Ducks win! We have an almost completely healthy roster and only two points of the WC2 spot.

Stick taps to Ondrej Kase, and his noteworthy return to the team from spending some time in San Diego during the bye week.

“You’ll get ’em next time” awards to Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty, both need to take a look at their performance if they wanna help the Kings finish strong this season.