If you would have told me back in November or even December that the Anaheim Ducks were going to finish second in the Pacific Division, I would have raised an eyebrow but still found it believable. If you would have told me the same thing two weeks ago I would have laughed at you. The Ducks find themselves at the end of the season with a second-place spot in the Pacific Division and a home-ice advantage over the San Jose Sharks for the first round of the playoffs, which start Thursday.
Looking back on the Ducks’ season, it has been an incredible journey and one heck of a thrill ride for the players and for their fans. Anyone who has followed the team this year knows they have had a slew of injuries. The Ducks were without the services of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and Ondrej Kase for select times during the season. Ryan Kesler returned but he has confirmed he is nowhere near 100 percent. With these injuries, the Ducks had to rely on some of their lesser-known players and in other cases had to fill their roster with some of the San Diego Gulls, their AHL affiliate.
Injuries Plague the Ducks
When looking at the number of games played, the Ducks only have three players who played 80 or more games, and no players who played all 82 of the season (including Andrew Cogliano, who would have played all 82 if not for a questionable suspension). The team only had seven players that played 70 or more games (including the three who played 80). The majority of the team played anywhere between 50 and 60 games. Now compare that to their first round opponents the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have seven players that have played over 80 games, including three players that played all 82. They have 12 players who played over 70 games.
Although no team is safe from injuries during the season, or suspensions for that matter, the difference is extremely noticeable. For the Ducks to even place in the playoffs let alone leapfrog a team like the Sharks in the standings considering their player differences, is incredible. This is largely due to Anaheim’s play down the stretch Anaheim. Since the trade deadline, the Ducks went 14-3-1, including 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Apart from a somewhat embarrassing loss against the Vancouver Canucks, the Ducks would have been undefeated in regulation in their last 10, only losing in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets. With this insane hot streak, the Ducks overcame their regular-season troubles and earned themselves a spot in the playoffs.
Goal Scoring Solved
Not only were the Ducks on a hot streak to end the season, they seem to have solved their scoring woes as well. For years the Ducks have had trouble scoring, opting for more of a physical style of play which helped them against teams like the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks. But the game has changed. Physical play only seems to slow you down now, and teams are getting faster and more skilled, which has always spelled trouble for the Ducks. But they ended the season on a high note, scoring at least four goals in seven of their games in March. They only did that in three of their games in February. This is largely in part thanks to Rakell, who set a record for himself with 34 goals and 35 assists for the season. He had two goals and four assists in his last five games.
Considering the luck the Ducks have had, or the lack thereof during the regular season, it’s incredible what they have accomplished. They have momentum going into the playoffs, and they have confidence which is key. After another 100-point season, they seem poised for a deep run. Unfortunately they will start their playoff run losing another player to injury in Cam Fowler. Hopefully he will be back by the second round, if there is one for the Ducks.