Another series, another blown lead. It was more of the same for the Anaheim Ducks as they once again blew a multi-goal lead and headed to overtime. Apparently, the Ducks didn’t think the in-arena fans who witnessed back-to-back meltdowns at Gila River Arena last week had enough viewership, so they decided to repeat the feat again against the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. Two 2-0 leads were not enough as the Ducks drew a series in which they probably should have come away with all four points.
With Cale Makar, Erik Johnson and Bowen Byram on the shelf, the Avalanche iced a pair of inexperienced defensemen in Jacob MacDonald and Dan Renouf. This has been a common theme among the teams in the Honda West Division and the Ducks have seen plenty of new faces on opposing blue lines. Renouf and MacDonald have just 18 NHL games played between the two of them and the Ducks did their best to apply pressure to both defensemen. Conor Timmins is also relatively inexperienced as well and the Ducks made sure he did not feel left out either.
As good as the Avalanche are offensively, it’s been their defense that has been the strong point this season and honing in on a weakened defense is something that the Ducks tried to take advantage of. They created plenty more turnovers in the latter game of the back-to-back and it was a turnover in the Colorado defensive zone that led to Troy Terry’s first goal.
Manson Returns, Zegras Benched
Defenseman Josh Manson made his long-awaited return after missing almost two months with an oblique injury. He played just under 19 minutes and blocked five shots in Friday night’s loss. He also had seven hits and was a minus-one. The physical presence that Manson brings was something the Ducks sorely missed as Jani Hakanpaa was their only blueliner who routinely played the body.
Trevor Zegras experienced the first growing pains of his brief NHL career. After failing to get the puck deep after leaving the defensive zone, which resulted in a dangerous scoring chance for the Avalanche, he was benched for the final eight minutes of Friday night’s game—save for a brief cameo in overtime.
He was a healthy scratch for the second game of the back-to-back, with head coach Dallas Eakins opting for 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Eakins had also gone with this look in the first game of the back-to-back set. It’s worth noting that Zegras will have burned off the first year of his entry-level contract if he plays another game in the NHL, so there’s a possibility that general manager Bob Murray may have tapped Eakins on the shoulder to let him know.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the team has cut a hot prospect’s NHL stint short to preserve their entry-level contract. Max Comtois had a stellar 10-game audition a couple of years back before being returned to the CHL.
Lack of Urgency Concerning
For the second time in a week, the Ducks blew multi-goal leads in both games of a two-game series. As if the two 3-0 leads against the Coyotes which led to 4-3 losses weren’t bad enough, the Ducks decided to perform an encore in Denver against the Avalanche. Two 2-0 leads were not enough as the Avalanche battled back to win the first game 3-2 in overtime, but the Ducks managed to salvage the back-end game in overtime by a score of 5-4.
It’s difficult to nail down what exactly the source of the problem is, but the Ducks for some reason have continually allowed the opposition back into the game after going ahead. Having a lead with one of the league’s top goaltenders in net should be enough to inspire confidence, but the Ducks for some reason withdraw into a shell when they are leading and it has, more often than not, led to trouble.
The Ducks offered a glimpse of what they can do when their backs are truly against the wall by erasing a two-goal deficit against the Avalanche on Saturday, but they have continually put themselves in situations where they are fighting to get back into the game when they should be on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Clashing With the Kings
The Ducks return home, where they will face the Los Angeles Kings for the second time this season. The first game between the Southern California rivals back in February resulted in a 3-1 win for the Ducks, a game which they won in convincing fashion. The Kings are coming off an astounding overtime comeback win of their own after being down 3-0 against the St. Louis Blues. Leading goalscorer Dustin Brown has gone cold, but points leader Anze Kopitar had two goals on Saturday night and looks to be getting over the slump he was in.
The Ducks have blown a frustratingly high amount of leads in the last week and it can be argued that they should be much higher in the standings. They did well to come back and beat the Avalanche and having a good series against the Kings would do wonders to help the Ducks regain their confidence.
I’ve been a fan of the Anaheim Ducks since 2013 and have enjoyed watching and learning more about the sport of hockey ever since.
I recently graduated from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication. Over the last several years, I have been employed as a sports journalist and now am working from home in Southern California.