The Anaheim Ducks have played better to start this season than last year, but there are still issues with their play. The Ducks either win big or lose big. They also can’t seem to figure out how to play 3-on-3 hockey in overtime.
Win Big, Lose Big
Anaheim has played 16 games this season and almost half of them (7) have been of the blowout variety. The Ducks have won big against Nashville, Los Angeles, Arizona, and Calgary. They also lost big to Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Nashville.
The second period has been the story on whether the Ducks win big or lose big. In their first meeting against the Predators, the Ducks scored five times in the second period en route to the 6-1 victory. Against Los Angeles, the Ducks outscored the Kings three to nothing in the second frame. And in the 4-1 win over Calgary, the Ducks scored twice in the second period. Overall in those four wins, the Ducks outscored their opponents 11 to one in the middle period.
In their big losses, the Ducks were outscored four to nothing in the second period. Pittsburgh only scored once in the second frame, but they dominated the play in that period and could have easily scored more. In Anaheim’s recent loss to Nashville, they gave up three goals en route to being shutout by Pekka Rinne.
Another factor for the Ducks has been a combination of injuries and newcomers to the NHL. Ryan Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie both missed a few games with upper-body injuries. Rickard Rakell only returned recently due to his contract dispute and appendix issues.
As a result, Randy Carlyle has had to rely on younger players with little or no NHL experience. Joseph Cramarossa and Michael Sgarbossa have seen extended playing time. Cramarossa has played 11 games recording one goal and one assist. Sgarbossa has two assists in eight games. Neither one has been a liability, but they both haven’t contributed much offensively yet. Ondrej Kase made an appearance in two games recording one assist. Hampus Lindholm finally returned to the team this week and the Ducks turned to Shea Theodore in Lindholm’s absence. Theodore appeared in six games recording one assist.
Going forward, if Anaheim can stay healthy then there shouldn’t be too many lineup shakeups in the future. In order for the Ducks to find more consistency in their play, the younger players are going to need to step up their game. Anaheim has produced 24 goals between the Getzlaf and Kesler lines. The rest of the Anaheim forwards have only scored eight goals so far and four of those have come from Rickard Rakell. The Ducks need to find more secondary scoring to maintain consistency and make a serious playoff push later in the season.
Last season, the Ducks struggled in overtime and the trend is continuing this year. A year ago, the Ducks went into overtime 18 total times. They won four times and lost seven during the 3-on-3 overtime. The remaining seven overtime sessions ended in a tie, going to a shootout.
This season the Ducks have gone to overtime three times and have dropped all three games. Anaheim lost to the New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks, and Columbus Blue Jackets in the extra session.
The Ducks have been able to win the face-off at the start of the overtime session, but the execution after the fact is cause for concern.
After going down 2-0 to the Islanders, the Ducks rallied to score twice in the third period to get the game to overtime. In the extra session, Anaheim had the puck, but couldn’t score. The Islanders responded as Josh Bailey carried the puck around everyone in an Anaheim jersey and burned John Gibson for the score. The poor defensive play left Gibson out to dry.
In the game against San Jose on October 25, the Ducks again maintained possession of the puck in overtime, at first. Chris Wagner took the puck behind the San Jose net and tried to make a pass to the slot. His pass attempt was blocked and Marc-Edouard Vlasic sprung down the length of the ice for the game-winning goal. A costly turnover led to the breakaway, which Gibson couldn’t stop.
In the recent overtime loss to Columbus, the Ducks came back after being down 2-0 to force the extra session, but a turnover cost Anaheim the game. Ryan Getzlaf received a pass in the slot and it looked like he was going to have a good scoring chance, but he was stripped of the puck. Columbus went the other way, Alexander Wennberg found Zach Werenski for the game winner. Gibson over committed to his left and Werenski shot it off his right leg pad and in.
When the Ducks go into overtime the script is predictable. Anaheim will win the faceoff and get the first opportunity, but then will turn over the puck and lose. The Ducks need to work on their execution with 3-on-3 play. When they enter the opponent’s zone they need to make sure the puck gets on net. In each of the three overtime sessions this season, the Ducks have either turned over the puck or shot the puck wide springing their opponent the other way. Anaheim also needs to play better defense. Having Hampus Lindholm could improve the situation as he is the best two-way defenseman Anaheim can put on the ice in the overtime.