It’s still early in the season, but it is also a shorter season compared to previous ones. The Anaheim Ducks need to figure out their offensive game, having scored fewer than three goals in 9 out of 10 games this season. They’ve relied heavily on goaltender John Gibson to this point, but the 27-year-old can only do so much without some offensive help. A poor showing against the St. Louis Blues in back-to-back games over the weekend demonstrated just that.
Sloppy Play Garners Expected Results
Game 1 of the Ducks’ two-game slate against the Blues did not start out as anticipated, as the Blues pounced right away, going up 3-0 just 2:06 into the game. Jordan Kyrou was at the center of the Blues’ offensive onslaught, scoring two of the three goals, with one coming on a breakaway and chasing Gibson from the game.
The Ducks failed to corral loose pucks and clear the defensive zone, which led to a myriad of turnovers and easy drives to the net for the Blues’ big bodies. Zach Sanford had free reign to the front of the net on St. Louis’ second goal in the first game, putting home his own rebound after Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk barely applied any defensive pressure. The combination of Shattenkirk and Hampus Lindholm were a putrid minus-3 in the first game.
A series of lineup changes gave the Ducks a burst of energy and they got off on the right foot in the second game. But again, they were outmuscled to the puck, and their efforts to effectively clear the defensive zone led to a tie game and then a deficit after going up early.
“The score does not indicate how we played tonight at all… We are going to take positives out of that compared to the night before… We were doing a lot of good things and we’re going to have to continue to do those things and do some things a lot better.”
–Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins on Sunday night’s 4-1 lossQuote via post-game interview on Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Power Play Struggles Continue
Another blank showing by the Ducks on the man advantage in the first game piled onto the numerous issues that were obvious in the 6-1 shellacking bestowed by the Blues. Though the Ducks did go 1-for-2 on the power play in the second game, this is a power-play unit that ranks 30th in the league. It was just their second power-play goal of the season. That won’t cut it for a team that general manager Bob Murray believes is fit to be a playoff contender.
“We were upset about everything Saturday night. You can handle losing hockey games if you felt like you left everything out there… We’re finding our way a little bit (and) still supporting each other (and) doing our best, but we need to start stringing some wins together if we want to have success.”
–Cam FowlerQuote via post-game interview on Fox Sports Prime Ticket
The Ducks are bottom-five in the league in power-play opportunities (23) and need to make the most of every chance they get while facing a shorthanded team. “All of us want to score more goals.,” said defenseman Cam Fowler during his post-game interview. “If we had the answer, I think (our lack of offense) would be fixed by now, but we just have to stay with it.” With a top-10 penalty kill in the league, having a power play that is average at the least will go a long way toward more success in the future for the Ducks.
Hakanpaa Impresses Again
Injuries have allowed Jani Hakanpaa to solidify his spot on the blue line and he has made his mark. The 28-year-old is averaging just over 18 minutes per game and has recently been paired with Fowler in the wake of Josh Manson’s injury in the Ducks’ third game of the season. Hakanpaa had an even rating in the first game against the Blues and a minus-one rating in the second game, meaning that he was on the ice for very few of the Blues’ goals. On top of all of that, Hakanpaa also ranks second in the league in blocked shots. Hakanpaa’s gritty and defensive style of play has opened up time and space for Fowler to contribute more in the offensive zone with the former staying back.
The Ducks’ blue line will be extremely crowded once Manson returns – he is expected to be back toward the end of February – but Hakanpaa has played a key role so far this season. Free-agent acquisition Shattenkirk was expected to be the big-impact player but has left many wanting with his limited production to this point. Hakanpaa has taken advantage of his opportunity and there is likely more to come from the Finn.
Freeway Faceoff Awaits Ducks
The Ducks’ first matchup of the season against the Los Angeles Kings will be on Tuesday, Feb. 2. It’s a short trip down the freeway for one game against their in-state rivals before a return home to face the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 5 and 6.
After starting off the season with back-to-back losses in overtime to the Minnesota Wild, the Kings have split every series they’ve played since. Captain Anze Kopitar leads the way for the Kings with 12 points and keeping him off the scoresheet will be imperative for the Ducks.
The rest of the Kings’ remaining quartet from their 2012 Stanley Cup victory sans goaltender Jonathan Quick – Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter – have also provided offense with six points each. Brown and Doughty have scored three goals apiece.
The Ducks need more offense from their veterans. Shattenkirk has just one point in 10 games while Adam Henrique was a healthy scratch in the Ducks’ second game against the Blues. Henrique was the Ducks’ leading scorer a season ago with 43 points. The veteran center has just two points in nine games and his exclusion from the lineup was likely a message from Eakins that he needs to do more.
I would expect Henrique to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, but him being scratched means that no one is exempt from being taken out of the lineup.
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.