Not much went right for the Anaheim Ducks in January. The team is at a middling 3-5-2 record and though they lost two of those games in overtime, their record should be worse. The Ducks are struggling to generate offense and the veterans have not led the charge. They will look to put a dreary January behind them, but here are their three stars of the month.
The Ducks’ first game of the season against the Vegas Golden Knights was not rainbows and sunshine. They fell into a quick 2-0 hole after just two minutes and thirteen seconds, and while they managed to even the score at one point, the Golden Knights did all their heavy lifting in the third, putting up three goals (one empty net).
However, until the Ducks’ most recent series against the St. Louis Blues, Gibson has played the part of an elite goaltender. It’s been a pleasant sight after the 27-year-old posted career-low numbers in 2019-20. With two shutouts on the season, Gibson has already eclipsed that total from last season. Without him, the Ducks would likely have ended January without a win, as none of the team’s wins were comforting.
The Blues outscored the Ducks 10-2 in their two-game series, by far their worst performances this season. Gibson can only do so much to keep pucks out of the net when his team isn’t doing the opposite on their end.
Hakanpaa is plus-3 on the season, the best plus-minus rating on the team. That is not spectacular until you take into account the fact that Anaheim has a minus-11 goal differential, third-worst in the league. The Finn has taken on a larger role with Josh Manson on injured reserve. Paired with Cam Fowler, Hakanpaa has been arguably Anaheim’s most consistent defenseman this season. He blocks shots, reads the play well when pinching, and at 6-foot-5, he can lay the body on just about anyone.
He doesn’t have any points this season, but Hakanpaa’s role isn’t about creating offense. He’s been a steady presence on the blue line, and in some ways, he has mirrored Manson’s skill set. The latter is expected to return from injury at the end of this month, and it will be interesting to see how head coach Dallas Eakins shakes up his defensive pairings once Brendan Guhle returns from injury as well.
You could make a case for Jakob Silfverberg to be here, but the Swede had a slow start to the month and he should probably be doing more to contribute as one of the leaders of the team. Because of that, I decided to go with Steel.
Steel’s stats aren’t gaudy, but you can see that the 22-year-old is taking the next step in his development. He’s been stronger on the puck, is aggressive on the forecheck and has even been the Ducks’ second-best player on face-offs (54.1%). With Adam Henrique struggling out of the gate––he’s already been scratched once––Steel has taken on more responsibility to produce behind captain Ryan Getzlaf.
The former Regina Pat has been playing alongside peers Max Jones and Max Comtois––and sometimes Troy Terry––and while the trio tends to get caught on long shifts, it demonstrates their drive to contribute. Once they rectify their shift length, their offence will follow because they have been one of the team’s more threatening lines.
Start February Off Strong
The Ducks play their first game of the month tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are in the same boat as the Ducks, another former playoff contender now caught between retaining their stars of the past and turning over a new leaf. The Kings’ stars have done their part this season, however.
The window to make the playoffs is closing quickly, given the shortened 56-game season. The Ducks need better performances from their offense, not just to demonstrate that they can be a playoff team one day but to show that they’re better than they were last season.
Derek Lee is a contributor for The Hockey Writers covering the Anaheim Ducks. Derek has spent nearly two decades immersed in the world of sports and has been writing about sports for five years. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication in May 2020 from UCCS in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he also spent two and a half years on staff with their on-campus student newspaper–both as a sports reporter and editor. In his free time, he enjoys playing FIFA, curating his Spotify playlists and attending concerts & sporting events