The Anaheim Ducks’ 2020-21 season came a close – perhaps mercifully – but not without some last-minute excitement. Their opponents, the Minnesota Wild, have already punched their ticket to the postseason, but the Ducks weren’t going to simply lay on their backs to finish out the season.
There wasn’t a lot to like about the Ducks’ defensive play in their final two games of the season. The Wild had plenty of scoring chances and the Ducks were lucky to take both games to overtime – because of the Wild’s defensive deficiencies of their own. Two of the Wild’s goals during the two-game series were wide-open chances right in the slot, the first an opportunity for Nico Sturm – which he handled with aplomb – and the second was one for former Duck, Nick Bonino. Both forwards were left unattended in the soft part of their offensive zone and the Ducks paid heavily for it.
Jamie Drysdale was a minus-3 for the Ducks in the first game of the series and took it to heart, but teammate Josh Manson made sure to assure him that everyone has an off-night once in a while, said Bally Sports West’s Aly Lozoff during Saturday’s game. While the Ducks did score three goals in each game, they also allowed four goals apiece in each game. That’s not good enough for a team that doesn’t usually produce that much offensively.
Manson and Henrique Return
The aforementioned Manson made his return to the lineup on Friday night after missing the previous seven. Adam Henrique also returned to the lineup on Friday after missing six games due to being in COVID-19 protocol. Henrique even scored in his return, but was a healthy scratch for the final game of the season.
Manson has missed a majority of the shortened season, 33 games to be exact, and his absence – along with Hampus Lindholm’s – left the Ducks severely shorthanded on the blue line. The silver lining to that, of course, was that the Ducks were able to see how Drysdale handled the rigors of the NHL season, and they were not disappointed. The offseason gives the Ducks’ injured players a chance to fully recover in preparation for next season. Veteran Kevin Shattenkirk also missed last night’s game with a lower-body injury.
Miller’s Career Comes to a Close, Backes Soon to Follow; Is Getzlaf Next?
The final game of the Ducks’ 2020-21 season also marked the final game of goaltender Ryan Miller’s career, as the 40-year-old got the start on Saturday night. While the netminder was not able to get one last win, he still looked sharp and it was hard to fault him on any of the Wild’s four goals. Miller concludes his career as one of the most decorated goalies in both international and NHL history.
David Backes got a nice send-off in St. Louis where he began his NHL career, but it was in the state of Minnesota where he began his hockey career. Playing for Spring Lake Park High and then Minnesota State University, Backes will go down in history as one of the greatest NHL players to come from Minnesota. The Wild took the opportunity to congratulate Backes on his career during a TV timeout. He never officially confirmed his retirement, but the writing looks on the wall for the 37-year-old with his contract expiring this offseason.
Another Duck who has not yet clarified his future is captain Ryan Getzlaf, who is also a free agent this offseason. When questioned about his plans beyond this season, the captain stifled a small grin and said that he would use the time off to ‘decompress’ and spend time with his family before making a decision. I think there’s a good chance that we will see No. 15 in black and orange once again next season.
Derek has been a hockey fan for almost a decade and has been a sports fan in general for more than two decades.
He graduated from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication. He spent the last several years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff (both as a reporter and editor) and is now creating Ducks-related content from his home in Southern California.