Since coming off the holiday break, the Ducks have looked like a new team destined for a turnaround. The goal scoring has still been quite nonexistent for Anaheim but strong goaltending and defense has made it a lesser issue (for now).
After going 2-0-1 on their recent road trip against Pacific Division opponents, the Ducks now sit in a perfect spot to finally make that climb into a playoff position. Just sitting two points behind the third place Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim will play the next eight games on home ice at the Honda Center.
Over the span of 20 days Anaheim will play eight games at home starting with the Winnipeg Jets tonight. They will then take on Toronto, St. Louis, Detroit, Ottawa, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Minnesota in that order.
Put to The Test
The Ducks need to start off this home stand strong. There is no reason they cannot come away with winners in the games against the Jets and the Maple Leafs. Although no win is a guarantee, these two teams are the weakest opponents Anaheim will see over the next eight games. Both the Stars and the Kings sit atop their respective divisions, and the four other teams are in a battle for playoff positioning.
Anaheim has played their best hockey this season at home acquiring 22 of their 37 points at the Honda Center. It is important that they keep their home ice success going over the next eight games to ensure they continue climbing up the Pacific Division and do not end up back in its basement.
Need More Than Just Defense
Over the past three games, Anaheim has appeared to buy-in to a defense first approach and it seems to be working. Their 1-0 victories over both Calgary and Edmonton were completely the result of a defensive focus. Although scoring just one goal did not turn out to be enough against Vancouver, the defeat did not come from a lack of success on defense.
With their best defenseman, Cam Fowler, out for at least the next three weeks with a knee injury, the Ducks cannot strictly rely on strong play from their defense and goalies and expect to continue winning. I might be beating a dead horse here but Anaheim needs to start scoring more goals if they want to come away with more wins than losses during this stretch of home games.
I don’t want to take away from Anaheim’s successful road trip but we must remember that they took on three teams in the NHL’s worst division. Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver all sit in the bottom half of the league’s standings and would not be in playoff contention in any other division. This stretch of home games has the Ducks going up against much better competition, and one goal a game is just not going to cut it.
Anaheim has witnessed improved play from some of their stars and hope that it continues. After not scoring a contested goal in the first 33 games of the season, Ryan Getzlaf has managed to put the puck in the net twice in the last four. It appears that he gained more confidence which will hopefully result in more production. Ryan Kesler has also looked better, scoring the only goal in Friday’s loss to the Canucks.
There is no way to accurately explain how important a successful home stand is for the Anaheim Ducks. After looking like a lost cause on the ice for the first third of the season, the team has begun to turn things around. Coming away with eight points or more in the next eight games would most likely put them in the top three of the Pacific. There is no denying that every game will be a challenge; but if Anaheim wants to be considered one of the best, they need to start beating some of the best teams.