Of all the opponents the Anaheim Ducks faced so far in 2020-21, the St. Louis Blues have been their biggest challenge. The team dropped both games in their first series by a combined score of 10-2, the biggest combined deficit in a series so far this year. Anaheim’s luck didn’t change much in their second series as the team fell 5-4 Monday and 3-2 Wednesday, extending their losing streak to eight games. Though the team struggled, there were a couple of major bright spots shining through the darkness.
Isac Lundestrom Earns First Career Hat Trick
Lundestrom’s development has taken some time, but it appears the young swede has turned a corner. The Ducks No. 23 overall pick in 2018 saw the NHL right out of the gate playing just a few months after becoming Ducks property. He went on to notch just six assists and no goals in a combined 30 games over the next two seasons.
That changed this season, and Monday’s first game versus the Blues was the most significant example. Lundestrom scored the first three goals Monday for his first career hat trick and a total of five goals in 16 NHL games this season.
Lundestrom showed new confidence and versatility during Monday’s performance that should give Ducks fans hope for the future. He showcased his shooting ability unleashing a pinpoint shot that beat Blues goaltender Ville Husso cleanly. It was a situation where he might have attempted to pass in previous seasons but not Monday.
Lundestrom’s second goal highlighted his skating ability when he blazed past three Blues deep into the offensive zone, depositing a wraparound behind Husso. Lundestrom executed a difficult power skating trick that involved swiveling his hips to better reach the net on the wraparound.
Finally, his third goal came in a similar fashion to his first two of the season when he fought for position in front of an opponent’s goal to tip or deflect a point shot past a goaltender.
Lundestrom is showing his diverse toolkit and willingness to pay the price in front of the net to score, something not many Ducks have done this season except for Max Comtois.
Youngsters Show Ducks Are Their Team
The Ducks now belong to their next generation of core players. The team success hasn’t been there, but individually, the young players account for the majority of the team’s offensive production. Over their last 11 games, 65% percent of Ducks’ goals have come from players 23 or younger. The group of Comtois, Lundestrom, Max Jones, Sam Steel, Troy Terry, and Josh Mahura looks like it’s finally starting to take over the scoring duties from the veterans (although Steel has not played well of late.)
Last season, players below the age of 23 scored only 29% of the Ducks’ goals. Part of that resulted from fewer games played, but it’s not just that; the young players are playing better than the veterans overall.
In addition to Lundestrom’s hat trick on Monday, Comtois scored his ninth goal of the season, with Terry adding an assist in the second game. Trevor Zegras also notched his first NHL point by assisting on Rickard Rakell’s tally on Wednesday.
Zegras has also earned an increasing amount of trust from head coach Dallas Eakins to the tune of 20:42 time-on-ice on Wednesday, leading all forwards. That included playing most of the final three minutes of the second game with the goalie pulled and the Ducks seeking two goals to tie the score.
That time-on-ice is nearly three minutes more than his season-high that came in the first game of the series.
Ducks Can’t Compete Against Blues
The Ducks are struggling against the Blues as the Calgary Flames once struggled against Anaheim. The Flames famously went winless in 25 games against the Ducks at Honda Center.
The Ducks streak versus the Blues is shorter but arguably worse because many of their losses have come at home. The Ducks haven’t beaten the Blues since November of 2019, losing six consecutive games to St. Louis and eight straight at Honda Center. The Ducks haven’t beaten the Blues at Honda Center since March of 2017.
Making things even more frustrating was the fact that the Blues appeared vulnerable. Their list of regulars on injured reserve included Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, Jaden Schwartz, Carl Gunnarsson and Ivan Barbashev and the Ducks still couldn’t capitalize.
Their difficulty this season stems from the Blues’ success on the power play. The Blues have scored six power-play goals versus the Ducks in their four meetings this season, which is a sad state of affairs for Anaheim considering St. Louis’ power play ranked No. 28 in the league coming into Wednesday’s game at Honda Center while the Ducks penalty kill ranked No. 7. Nothing seems to go right for the Ducks when they play the Blues at Honda Center.
The Ducks’ schedule doesn’t get easier as they travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche Friday and Saturday night. The team goes into the series, having split their first two games against the Avalanche in January. The team looks to break their eight-game losing streak against one of the strongest opponents in the league, which will be difficult.
All stats from hockey-reference.com
Anthony Ciardelli grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire but now lives in Los Angeles. Though he was raised a Bruins fan, he quickly came to enjoy the hockey culture in Southern California and the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks. He covered USC Athletics while pursuing his journalism masters there. He also enjoys doing play-by-play for USC Trojan Hockey.