The Anaheim Ducks split their two-game series with the Colorado Avalanche, but they came away with three of a possible four points. Led by goaltender John Gibson, the Ducks gave their strongest efforts of the season against the Avalanche.
Forecheck, Forecheck, Forecheck
The Ducks were able to get after a tired Avalanche team on Friday night, but eventually fell 3-2 in overtime. They looked even more energized against a rested Avalanche team on Sunday night, getting in on the forecheck early and often and forcing plenty of turnovers in front of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Danton Heinen, Max Jones and Max Comtois in particular all created plenty of havoc for the Avalanche defense and gave them no room to skate the puck out of dangerous areas.
The Ducks’ ability to aggressively forecheck their opponents will make up for their lack of speed. They have plenty of big bodies capable of knocking players off the puck and they showed that through hard work, they can be a force to be reckoned with.
Their relentless forecheck also kept Nathan MacKinnon quiet––by his relative standards. The center managed just one point, an assist, and was a plus-one. The Avs’ top line did make their mark with two goals and five points, but it was a far cry from what they can produce on a nightly basis.
Penalty Kill Hot, Power Play Cold
Anaheim’s special teams have been a bit of a mess the past few seasons. Here’s a look at their numbers from the previous three seasons:
- 2017-18: 5th
- 2018-19: 20th
- 2019-20: 26th
- 2017-18: 23rd
- 2018-19: 24th
- 2019-20: 30th
The Ducks’ power play hasn’t shown much bite––if any––since the season began as they have yet to score on the man advantage. However, their penalty kill unit has been extremely sound and they demonstrated that against the red-hot Avalanche power play.
The Avalanche went 1-for-8 on the power play in the two-game series and were shut out in the second game, going 0-for-4. This is a power play comprised of some of the most dynamic talents in the NHL, so shutting them down is something that the Ducks can be especially proud of.
Of course, at some point, the law of averages will kick in and the Ducks’ penalty-killing unit will not be as spotless. Here’s hoping that it will kick in for the power play a lot quicker.
Gibson Continues Fine Form
Gibson came so close to his second shutout of the season, but alas, sometimes you just get a bad bounce. The 27-year-old was once again in fine form, stopping 32 of 33 shots in his second victory of the season. A few pings off of the pipe from MacKinnon were the difference between another overtime game. After what transpired on Friday night, it was nice to see Gibson rewarded with a win this time around. He now improves to 8-3-1 against the Avalanche.
Duel With the Desert Dogs Up Next
The Ducks now head out on the road once again for a two-game set against the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are coming off a four-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights, in which the Golden Knights won three out of the four.
The Ducks and Coyotes are polar opposites currently, with the Ducks’ offense mired in a funk while the Coyotes rank just inside the top-10 in goals for. The same can be said for their defenses, as the Coyotes’ defense struggles to prevent goals while the Ducks sit just outside the top-10 in goals against.
Most of the focus will likely be on the goaltenders. Gibson is in top form and while Darcy Kuemper’s start to the season hasn’t exactly been stellar, he is a big reason behind why the Coyotes made the playoffs last season.
Taking a majority of the points in their first series against the Avalanche, a team favored by many to win the Stanley Cup, is essential if the Ducks hope to squeeze into the playoff picture this season with the new division format. Sweeping the series against the Coyotes would go a long way toward a playoff push given the shortened season.