The first 33 games of the Anaheim Ducks’ 2015-16 regular season were quite forgettable. However, the holiday break appeared to be just what the doctor ordered as the Ducks entered Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers looking like a brand new team, and walked away with a decisive 4-2 victory.
Anaheim still has some more progress to make if they want to get back into serious playoff contention but last night was surely a step in the right direction. Here are four quick takeaways from Sunday’s victory against the Flyers.
New and Improved Image
In Anaheim’s abysmal first third of the season, the Ducks were not only getting beat night-in and night-out on the ice; but always appeared to be defeated mentally. Once the team was roughed up a little all energy appeared to be depleted. With no fight to their game, the Ducks looked as if the bottom of the Pacific would be their home for the rest of the season.
Luckily something finally clicked for the men on the Ducks during the holiday break, and they played Sunday’s game like a team ready to turn their season around. Once the first puck dropped, Anaheim was ready to fight (both literally and figuratively). They crashed the net with success, skated with speed and purpose, got physical, and most importantly put the puck in the back of the net more four times. Anaheim dominated all aspects of the game and has kept Ducks’ fans a little optimistic for now.
Rulers of the Face-off Circle
Winning a hockey game involves so much more than scoring goals and stopping pucks. If you want victories, you need to succeed in the more finite aspects of the games. The Ducks absolutely dominated in the face-off circle against Philadelphia, which led to an increased time-of-possession and prevented the Flyers from producing more chances on offense. Anaheim was 37 for 56 on face-offs, winning 66% of them. What stood out the most was their ability to win the big face-offs in the defensive zone. The Ducks won 71% of them in their own zone preventing Philadelphia from setting up their offense. Ryan Kesler stood out as the team’s best face-off man, winning 16 of 19.
Ducks Can Score
The kryptonite for Anaheim so far this season has been their inability to put the puck in the back of the net. The team sits in dead last in goals scored which is not going to translate into many wins. However, scoring goals was not an issue last night as the team lit the lamp on four separate occasions. Corey Perry had himself a night, accounting for two of the goals. They were not the prettiest things on the planet but as Perry if he cares. The most promising sign in regards to goal scoring has to involve captain Ryan Getzlaf. He finally scored a real goal this season! In the first 33 games of the season Getzlaf only scored once, and that was on an empty net. Now it is premature to claim the slump is over but scoring that goal has to have lifted the captains spirits.
Sloppiness Still an Issue
Yes, the Ducks got a decisive victory last night and appear to be a new team after the holiday break. However, Anaheim still played a rather sloppy game which led to a few bonehead turnovers. To say that the Ducks played a perfect game last night would be extremely inaccurate. The team made its fair share of mistakes which have come back to bite them in past games. Poor passing decisions did not hurt them last night but normally damage the team’s chance of winning. Defensemen Kevin Bieksa and Clayton Stoner were still frightening to watch, and not in a good sense of the word. These two guys have to start looking like they have played hockey before, especially if the team loses Cam Fowler for an extended period of time. The Ducks should be proud of last night’s victory as long as they are aware that plenty of improvements still need to be made.
Anaheim will travel to Calgary to take on the Flames on Tuesday night. This game, as well as the next two, are against Pacific Division teams and should be viewed as must-wins for the Ducks.