Ducks Drill Down: Ducks Go South Up North

It was all looking so good for the Anaheim Ducks. Winners of three straight and five of their past six, with the most recent victory being one in Beantown that ended the Bruins’ remarkable 18-game point streak, a couple of games against the bottom-feeding Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens seemed like easy pickins’.

But of course, this is why you play the games. The Ducks were not at their best in either, dropping an overtime decision to the lowly Sens before getting blasted in a Saturday matinee affair at the Bell Centre.

The two losses added insult to injury, as the big win in Boston was marred by star goaltender John Gibson exiting the game with a lower-body injury for the second straight contest.

Ducks’ Win Over Bruins Comes With a Price

Anaheim got off to a strong start in Boston, with Jakob Silfverberg—a new member on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell—opening the scoring about midway through the frame. Adam Henrique continued a red-hot stretch by adding his 14th of the year about five minutes later. The Ducks took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission and were outshooting the vaunted Bruins 15-5 at that point.

Adam Henrique Ducks
Adam Henrique continues to pay dividends for the Ducks, as he scored twice in a 3-1 victory over the scorching-hot Bruins. (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston, as one would expect from a great team, picked things up in the second, outshooting the Ducks 13-4, but Gibson turned aside every shot he faced. Early in the third, Gibson suffered an apparent lower-body injury and eventually left the game with 7:25 to go. Ryan Miller kept the shutout alive for the Ducks until Boston’s Ryan Spooner spoiled it with just 52 seconds left. Nevertheless, Henrique salted things away with an empty-net goal—his second goal of the game and fourth in the past three. The 3-1 victory was Anaheim’s ninth straight win against the Bruins.

There was no official prognosis on Gibson following the game, but the fact that he did not suit up for the Ducks’ next two games is not exactly encouraging. He had previously suffered a lower-body injury against the Winnipeg Jets before the All-Star break, but it did not end up costing him any time besides the remainder of that game, unlike this iteration.

Ducks Falter North of the Border

Heading up to Canada has thus far turned out to be a momentum-killer for the Ducks. Anaheim struggled to muster offense Thursday night against the Senators and yielded the first goal of the game to former Duck Bobby Ryan.

Ryan Kesler scored with under a minute remaining in regulation to salvage a point for the Ducks before the electrifying Erik Karlsson ended the contest in overtime on the power play with just his fifth goal of what has been a lost season for Ottawa.

Things would not get any better in Montreal against the Canadiens. In a game that started at 1:00 p.m. local time—that’s 10 a.m. back in Anaheim—the Ducks actually looked fine in the first few minutes before suddenly getting blitzed for three goals in the first period. Miller, who has been so solid all season, was not sharp and got pulled early on for Reto Berra, but he also did not have much help from his defense right out in front of his net.

Ryan Miller Ducks
Ryan Miller has been outstanding as the Ducks’ backup this season but had a poor showing in Montreal. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Anaheim got down 4-0 but made it 4-2 on goals by Corey Perry and Rakell, but that was as close as they’d get. They ultimately fell by a final of 5-2 despite firing 45 shots on goal against Antti Niemi.

One problem that has cropped up for the Ducks in their past two losses is their penalty kill. Both goals they gave up to the Sens came while they were shorthanded, while the Habs burned them for three power-play goals. The Ducks already have a problem with taking too many penalties; through the weekend, they led the NHL with 247 penalties, including 216 minor infractions (also the most in the league).

Their penalty kill had been decent enough whereby the plethora of infractions was not burning them all the time, but, now finding themselves at 15th in the league (81.3-percent success rate) and moving in the wrong direction, it’s something they’ll have to get cleaned up quickly.

“[The referees] started calling penalties,” Getzlaf said after the loss in Montreal. “That’s the momentum change of the game. Our [penalty] kill didn’t get it done. And their power play did.”

Anaheim plays an aggressive game, so while the team could stand to take fewer silly penalties, they are going to come as part of the equation. The Ducks’ ability to kill them off at a better rate will be something to watch during the stretch run of the season.

Ducks’ Upcoming Schedule

Anaheim is in Canada for one more game: Monday night against the potent Toronto Maple Leafs. They’ll then make a short trip back across the border to play the perpetually struggling Buffalo Sabres before heading back home and taking on the perpetually-struggling-except-for-last-year Edmonton Oilers Friday night.

Through the weekend, the Ducks sit one point back of the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division standings with one more game played. They are also in the same position with respect to the second and final wild-card spot, although, as is always the case in the Western Conference, a logjam of teams is clogging that part of the standings.

A good week can put the Ducks right back in a good spot in the division standings, so they’ll be looking to rebound from a less-than-stellar time up north so far.