The Anaheim Ducks are flying high heading into the second half of the season.
With the conclusion of yesterday’s All-Star game, the Ducks will enter the second half of the season atop the league with 68 points. If the Ducks can avoid a horrific second half, than they will likely be entering the postseason as one of the top seeds, it’s just now a matter of exactly what seed they will get in the competitive Western Conference.
As Anaheim gets ready to begin the post-All-Star Game-season Tuesday night at Vancouver, let’s take a look at what five keys will be for the Ducks for the remainder of the season.
1. Get Frederick Andersen Rested
Ducks goalie Frederick Andersen has been a huge part of the Ducks’ success so far this season, but, as he continues to make start after start, one has to wonder how long he will be able to keep up the high level of play. Andersen is on pace to start over 70 games in the regular season – a number that is much higher than goalies, who in the past, have gone on to make the Stanley Cup Final.
On average, starting goaltenders on Stanley Cup Final-qualifying teams since the 2005 lockout have played roughly 47 games per season. The highest number of starts for any Final starter was Jonathan Quick this past spring with 69, 7 more than the next highest.
This raises several concerns for the Ducks, and, especially with the Ducks in such a prime position, it might be time for Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau to consider playing somebody else to make sure Andersen is well-rested and ready for the Playoffs.
2. Make Sure Corey Perry is Healthy
There’s no doubt that Corey Perry is one of the best players in the league, when he’s healthy. This season, the star winger has missed several weeks due to the mumps and suffering a knee bruise.
But despite missing 15 games, Perry has still found a way to be atop the league leaders in goals. His 19 goals not only lead the Ducks, but he is also tied for 11th overall in the league in goals. He also leads the league in number of hat tricks, with three, including one last week against Toronto where he showed he’s returning back to his old form.
Down the stretch of the season and into the post-season, the Ducks will need a sharpshooter that is willing to take it into the slot like Perry can (video above) to keep opponents’ defenses honest. If he’s hurt when the games really start to matter, it will be tough to put together any sort of run.
3. Maroon Needs to Play Like He Has For Last Week
After struggling for much of the first half of the season, Patrick Maroon really picked it up the last week, scoring several key goals against New Jersey and Calgary, like the one below.
If Maroon can keep up that level of play, it provides another scoring option for the Ducks. But if he misses open shots like he did for much of the season before this past week, opponents will take notice, and could spell trouble for the entire line.
4. Getzlaf Needs to Continue to Play at High-Level
Getzlaf was the Ducks lone All-Star, and the center was definitely worthy of the honor, as he has not only scored 15 goals with 35 assists, but has also provided a bedrock of leadership for the Ducks this season, especially with Perry missing so many games.
At this point, it’s tough to ask much more from the center, other than to just keep doing what he’s been doing. Score goals, set up opportunities and provide leadership. Simple, right? Well, if any player in the NHL can do it, Getzlaf is one of them. If he can keep having the same output that he did in the first half of the season, it’s going to be a fun second-half and postseason for Anaheim.
5. Keep Controlling the Puck
One of the keys to the Ducks’ success this season has been their ability to control the puck, which is in large part due to Ryan Kesler (left) winning so many face-offs for the Ducks this season. Anaheim is currently tied for eighth in the league in faceoff win percentage (51.6) while Kesler himself has won 56.2 percent of his faceoffs.
If Kesler can keep giving the Ducks possession right from the get-go, that will be a huge advantage as most opponents will just start getting worn down.
THW Ducks Contributor