After a tough two-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Anaheim Ducks queued up for a Freeway Faceoff rivalry with the Los Angeles Kings. It wasn’t the typical Freeway Faceoff battles that we are used to, as the Ducks crumbled to a 4-1 defeat as Anthony Stolarz returned to the net. Cam Fowler picked up the only goal of the night, and Jamie Drysdale and Josh Manson struggled to stop the Kings’ offense.
Offense Still in Short Supply
The Ducks’ offensive struggles have been well-documented this season. The team ranks dead last in goals-per-game with 2.19 and power-play percentage with 10.28%. Over their last three games, they’ve been outscored by a 13-3 margin, with the only goals coming from Maxime Comtois, Danton Heinen, and Cam Fowler. In the month of April, only the Philadelphia Flyers have scored fewer goals than Anaheim, with the Ducks converting 21 and the Flyers converting 20. Vancouver and Edmonton officially rank lower, however, both have missed a significant amount of games due to postponement.
Last night’s game against the Kings was no different. Fowler was the only Ducks’ player to put the puck in the back of the net, and the team only generated three high dangerous chances throughout the entire game despite outshooting the Kings 25-22. One of those chances could’ve given the Ducks another goal if it wasn’t for a heroic diving block from Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty.
Anaheim is in desperate need of a pure goal scorer, and they’ll have likely another top-five pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to go out and find one. In terms of who they have now, Trevor Zegras and Jacob Perreault are two intriguing options in San Diego that could get a look in the final nine games of the season. Zegras is back in San Diego to transition to center ice, and Perreault will be with the Gulls for the rest of the season due to the cancellation of the Ontario Hockey League’s return to play plans.
Stolarz Returns to the Crease
Stolarz returned to the crease after having a two-game break against the Golden Knights. His last action came against the San Jose Sharks, where he stopped 73 of 74 shots against and picked up a shutout in the Ducks 4-0 victory on Apr. 12. Heading into last night’s game, Stolarz had a 2-1-0 in four appearances (three starts) this season with a .939 save percentage (SV%) and 2.17 goals-against average (GAA).
It was a tough return for Stolarz as he allowed four goals and 22 shots against, finishing the night with a .818 SV%. Despite the numbers not looking great, it really wasn’t that bad of an outing for the 6-foot-5 netminder. The Kings’ first goal deflected off the back of Carl Grundstrom, Anze Kopitar converted on a breakaway, Andreas Athanasiou fired a one-timer into an open net, and Blake Lizotte capitalized on a couple of bounces. Even with the loss, Stolarz still has a 3-2-0 record with a .928 SV% and 2.29 GAA.
With each start, he is auditioning for the backup role behind John Gibson for the 2021-22 season. He’s under contract through the 2022-23 season, and with Ryan Miller likely to retire, he is first in line to take over. His only competition comes in the form of Czech netminder Lukas Dostal who has just rattled off six straight wins for the Gulls.
Drysdale and Manson Have Rough Night
Not that plus-minus is indicative of individual performance, but Drysdale and Manson had a rough game on Tuesday night. The pairing was on the ice for all four Kings’ goals finishing with an eye-opening minus-four on the night. It’s worth mentioning that Drysdale is the youngest player currently playing in the NHL, so struggles are to be expected, and he’s playing on a Ducks’ team who ranks 24th in the league with a 3.17 GAA.
Drysdale is a minus-8 of the Ducks’ three-game losing streak, while Manson is a minus-5. In the month of April, the pairing has a team-worst 32.81 CF% for pairings who have played at least 40 minutes together. They also have an abysmal expected goal against of 8.96, which is significantly higher than the next highest pairing of Fowler and Andy Welinski (2.61).
They are being tasked with the toughest matchups each game, so again struggles are to be expected, but it may be time to change things up. All of this is to say it might be time to split the duo up and give them both a break. Whether that happens is up to head coach Dallas Eakins and general manager, Bob Murray. As I’m writing this, I realize that likely means we see them stick together for the rest of the season. Buckle in for the long haul, Ducks fans.
Last Stop in Sin City
The Ducks end their season series against the Golden Knights with one more meeting at Honda Center on Saturday. It hasn’t been a fun matchup for the Ducks, as their all-time record sits at 3-12-4, and the season series now sits with a record of 1-4-2. Their only win against Vegas came back on Feb. 11, where they walked away with a 1-0 victory thanks to a stellar 21-save shutout from Gibson.
Fan of the Anaheim Ducks for my whole life. I’m a die hard fan living in London, Ontario. Excited to be writing about the team I love. Talking all things Ducks on the Forever Mighty Podcast!