The inaugural THW Ducks Monday Mailbag is finally here, and it’s not going anywhere. Every week, hockey fans can submit their most burning questions about the state of the Anaheim Ducks. This week we get into what the Ducks’ roster will look like come playoff time among many other things, so let’s jump right into it:
“How can the Ducks solve their 2nd period blues? What are the Ducks playoff projections and chances on making a long run?” – Gina from Garden Grove
Excellent question Gina! Delving deeper into the statistics, the Ducks shot attempt percentage takes nearly a two percent dive in the second period. They have a negative shot attempt differential on the season in the second as well, which further validates your question.
How can the Ducks solve this? Something in their system goes awry in the second, as the numbers clearly indicate. In the other two frames, Anaheim is comfortably above break-even. Simply put, they can’t wait to be trailing to get back to that system, as they have done all too often this year.
The Ducks have an excellent chance to make a deep playoff run. Yes, they’re clearly a flawed team. However, they also have four lines that can skate and hurt just about any team. That matters in the playoffs, as the Getzlaf line will be tightly checked.
Their defense is deeper as well with the addition of Simon Despres and James Wisniewski, giving them three solid pairings. With either John Gibson or Frederik Andersen in net, they’ll have a goaltender who can steal them a game or two.
There’s really no reason to believe that the Ducks can’t at the very least make the Western Conference final. They’ll most likely play either Winnipeg or Los Angeles in the first round, two teams they’ve had success against throughout the season.
In the second round, the Ducks would most likely play the winner of Calgary and Vancouver, another set of teams that they’ve been able to tame this season. A Conference final appearance is definitely not out of the question, but it remains to be seen if they can beat a Chicago or St. Louis in a seven-game series.
“What is our actual and best top six defensemen going into the playoffs” – Gab from Montreal
Thanks for the question Gab! As long as Bruce Boudreau coaches the Anaheim Ducks, knowing what the lineup will look like from week to week is anyone’s guess. That being said, there are some obvious trends with 71 games in the books now.
For whatever reason, Boudreau loves deploying Clayton Stoner alongside a puck moving defenseman, even though all statistics point to Stoner actually being a negative impact player when on the ice. Once Sami Vatanen returns, expect him to be put back alongside Stoner once again.
The Francois Beauchemin-Hampus Lindholm pairing has been one of Anaheim’s most consistent in terms of deployment the entire season, so expect that one to stay intact. With the arrival of James Wisnewski though, Boudreau’s persistence in using Stoner will more than likely leave a very good player out of the lineup.
So to give you a final and concrete answer, my money says that the pairings will be Beauchemin-Lindholm, Fowler-Wisniewski, and Stoner-Vatanen. Unfortunately for Simon Despres, a very promising young talent, Boudreau’s fondness of Stoner will most likely earn him a ticket to the press box come playoff time.
“Goalie situation: what’s the plan, what’s the future?” – Daniel from Irvine
Man, talk about a loaded question!
Frederik Andersen looked like he’d be the Ducks’ main man for the season, but a head and neck injury in February quickly dismantled what could have been a memorable campaign for Andersen.
John Gibson, on the other hand, has looked extremely solid since getting called up from Norfolk. The Ducks’ most recent win, a 4-2 comeback against Nashville, couldn’t have been possible without some key stops from the 21-year old.
When put side by side, Gibson and Andersen’s numbers are nearly identical, though Andersen has a larger sample size. If the coaching staff truly believed Andersen would be the starter moving forward, then it’s hard to imagine that they’d still be starting Gibson against top-flight teams.
Clearly, Boudreau wants to see who will be the hottest come playoff time, and at this moment in time it seems like he has more faith in the upstart Gibson. The same thing happened last spring when Gibson was given starts over both Hiller and Andersen in the playoffs.
The Ducks organization is pretty bad at keeping secrets, because it seems beyond any reasonable doubt that they want Gibson to be their starter this season and in coming seasons. It sucks for Andersen, who’s done nothing but contribute this season. At this point though, the Ducks have shown their hand, and they’re not folding anytime soon.
“Will the constant line juggling harm us or benefit us in the playoffs?” – Crystal from Moreno Valley
As much as Boudreau’s constant tinkering may irk fans, it may very well be a great thing come playoff time. Knowing exactly which combinations can play in certain situations can only be seen as an asset for a team like the Ducks who have a dominant first line that will most likely be tightly checked during the playoffs.
On the flip side though, you have to trust that Boudreau and his staff are capable of recognizing when it’s time to stick with a line that’s clearly working. The recent uprising of the Jiri Sekac-Rickard-Rakell-Emerson Etem line immediately comes to mind.
The trio looked fantastic almost as soon as it was put together, yet was disbanded just as fast. Whatever reason the coaches choose to provide, there’s really no justifying breaking up a line that was clearly addressing the team’s long-held need for secondary scoring.
In a vacuum, yes, juggling lines can be a good thing. But as Boudreau has show, it can be detrimental to the team, so one has to hope that come playoff time he has enough data on each combination to construct the most potent roster possible. Don’t hold your breath though.