The Anaheim Ducks split their final series of the season against the Los Angeles Kings, which means that the two teams finished the season 4-4-0 against one another in the latest installment of the Freeway Face-Off.
Future Is Bright
The Ducks rolled out a power play unit of Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Troy Terry, Max Comtois and Rickard Rakell. There’s a whole lot of youth in there. Four out of those five players are also good bets to be part of the Ducks’ core for a long while.
Rakell is on an exceptionally cheap contract and still provides good value — even without scoring as often as he used to — but his tenure with the Ducks beyond this season will depend on what direction general manager Bob Murray decides to move in.
Though the season has fallen far beyond expectations, several of the young players have taken major strides and have shown that they can be regulars in the lineup. Isac Lundestrom looks to be putting it all together. He scored his first NHL hat trick earlier this season and has become one of the main forwards on the penalty kill.
Max Jones is also demonstrating why he was a first-round pick back in 2016. His combination of strength and speed makes him an excellent forechecker, and now that his hands have finally caught up to his feet, he’s starting to put the puck in the net a lot more.
Comtois is having a career year, leading the Ducks in both goals and points and is second in assists behind Rakell. The winger makes his living in the five-foot radius around the blue circle and never wastes any time taking the puck from his stick to the net. It’s his tenaciousness and willingness to go to the net that has rewarded him time and time again this season.
Terry is displaying the playmaking ability that made him a top offensive threat during his college years. He admitted at the beginning of the season that he was trying to do too much — this was amid him being a healthy scratch for a few games. Once he began to relax and let the game come to him more, he settled in. His Corsi for percentage at even strength (CF%) is 52.2, third-best on the team among players with 10 or more games played.
Lastly, Zegras has shown flashes of brilliance that made him the Ducks’ first-round pick at ninth overall in 2019. A call-up in late February coincided with a few ups and downs during his first month as an NHLer. A return to the AHL greeted him at the beginning of April as the Ducks focused on him becoming a center full-time after debuting in the NHL as a winger. The 19-year-old has come back with a flourish, collecting three points (one goal and two assists) and winning 13 out of 25 faceoffs in the two games since his recall, good enough for a 52 percent faceoff percentage.
Add another young defenseman alongside Drysdale — who hasn’t looked out of place and has revolutionized the power play — and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Ducks have a fine, young core that they can build around. Perhaps new addition Haydn Fleury can be just that. Otherwise, the Ducks could target one in the upcoming draft or through a trade.
Power Play Needs Work
Yes, I did just say that Drysdale has revolutionized the power play. But it still needs work. A lot of work. The Ducks were 0-for-6 on the power play in four games against the Kings. Even though they sport the worst power play in the league by some margin (9.4 percent), it’s still a concern that the Ducks were unable to capitalize on a single man advantage.
Credit where credit is due, of course. The Kings are third in the league in penalty kill percentage (84.78), and Jonathan Quick channeled his 2012 self in the third game of the series when the Ducks had some of their best special teams goalscoring opportunities.
Now, a poor power play is not the sole reason behind why the Ducks have been so subpar this season. After all, the Nashville Predators made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs just a few seasons ago while holding down the bottom spot in the league in power play percentage.
But for the Ducks, a team that already struggles to score often at even strength, making their chances count while a man up is something that they need to improve heading into next season.
Benoit Makes His NHL Debut
Simon Benoit has been on the fringes of the NHL roster over the past couple of seasons. He impressed out of training camp in 2019 but ended up not making the team. He did, however, have an excellent season for the San Diego Gulls in the AHL. Last season was a bit of a step back for the blueliner, but he has bounced back this season.
Benoit is a large presence, standing at 6-foot-3. He isn’t afraid to play the body, but his size doesn’t mean he’s a mobile liability either. He was beaten on the edge in the defensive zone by Austin Wagner but used his reach to sweep the puck off of Wagner’s stick and negate what would have been an abbreviated breakaway.
With Hampus Lindholm done for the season and Josh Manson seemingly headed down the same path, these last four games are an early audition for a spot on the Ducks’ blue line next season for Benoit.
Miller Calls it a Career
Given how little the 40-year-old played this season, Ryan Miller’s announcement that he was retiring at the end of the season may not have come as a surprise to some. The integration of Anthony Stolarz also played a part in that as well.
I think Miller is just ready to spend more time with his family and given the circumstances of the past year, who could blame him? The netminder said in his post-game interview following his 339th career win that he plans to still be around the game of hockey; it just won’t be around the crease anymore.
It was nice to see Miller get one last win at home — in front of fans as well — and it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to get one more game before the season concludes. Maybe a sending-off in St. Louis?
Hats off to one of the most decorated American goaltenders ever on one heck of a career.
End of the Road for Getzlaf?
Ryan Getzlaf was absent for the third game of the Ducks’ series against the Kings with what was called a “maintenance day.” The captain was also on the fourth line as a winger for the first two games of the series in what seemed like a puzzling move, but he returned to center the top line in the final game of the series.
Now, this is purely speculation, but could this be it for Getzlaf? Of course, maintenance days can be expected as a player reaches the tail-end of their career in order to maximize each game they play in. Getzlaf is no exception, as he has suffered several small injuries in this season alone that have kept him out of the lineup.
The season being lost months ago means that head coach Dallas Eakins has been willing to tinker with his lineups, but placing the best center on the team — yes, he still is, for now — on the fourth line as a winger doesn’t seem like the best plan. It could be a way to keep Getzlaf in the lineup while minimizing his use, but it also feels like cheating the captain out of having a bigger impact on the game.
The 35-year-old hasn’t revealed any of his plans beyond this season, but it’s fair to expect to see him back in black and orange next season. He’s an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but I can’t imagine him wanting to sign anywhere else. He’s settled in Orange County and has a family as well. It wouldn’t make sense to voluntarily uproot everything just to play somewhere else for a season or two.
Beat the Blues
The Ducks will now travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues. Their record against Ryan O’Reilly & Co. is not exactly spectacular, a 2-4-0 record with one of those wins coming in overtime. However, both wins did come in their most recent series against the Blues, a nice improvement over their previous 6-1 and 4-1 defeats.
The Blues had won four straight prior to Saturday night’s loss in overtime to the Minnesota Wild. O’Reilly and David Perron have been the Blues’ offensive catalysts this season — the pair combined for 14 points during the four-game win streak alone — and should be the focal points to shut down for the Ducks.
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 graduated in May 2020 from UCCS in Colorado Springs, CO with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication. I spent the last several years as part of UCCS’ on-campus student newspaper staff (both as a reporter and editor) and now am working from home in Southern California.