How Good Are The Anaheim Ducks?

According to the standings, the Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the National Hockey League, and looked every bit deserving of that title with a dominant win over the struggling Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night. Corey Perry is continuing to establish himself as one of the best five players in the league, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen are looking promising on the blueline (from an offensive standpoint), and the tandem of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson can seem to do no wrong. Yet is this team really the best in the NHL, or is it simply riding some otherworldly percentages from different areas of the lineup? There’s reason to believe that the Ducks might not be the very best the league has to offer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be close to that either.

Ducks Defense: Where’d It Go?

Oct 19, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) reaches for the puck against Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy (6) during the second period at Honda Center. (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)
The Ducks have struggled to be any good in their own zone. (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

This is getting to be a tired topic around these parts, but it has developed into a legitimate story line for the Ducks this season. Through 13 games, Anaheim has been out-shot seven times, while two of the six times where they out-shot the opposition came against the hapless Buffalo Sabres. More importantly, out of the seven games against Western Conference foes (Minnesota, St. Louis, San Jose, Chicago, Dallas, Colorado — all playoff teams last season), they’ve only won the shot count three times, and one of those was against an Avalanche team that has made a habit of getting out shot. In the analytics department, they don’t fare much better, sitting twelfth in the league for unblocked shot attempts percentage (51.00%), a number inflated by a handful of games against really bad defensive teams. The sample size, while small, is somewhat alarming since it’s a continuation of how poorly the Ducks fared in the shot department last year. If not for some absolutely stellar work in net from Frederik Andersen and some solid outings from John Gibson (don’t forget Jason Labarbera!), the Ducks’ record could easily be much closer to .500 than their monstrous .769 winning percentage.

Extra Duck: Anaheim Inefficient On The Power Play

Any statistical argument at this juncture of the regular season must be prefaced by the fact that the sample size is too small to concretely identify trends. But in a vacuum, 17.6% efficiency with the extra man just isn’t very good for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The Ducks lack a booming shot from the point that can create spacing for other player by forcing penalty killers to cheat up, which in turn has allowed the forwards to be checked tighter by the opposition. Nevertheless, Ryan Kesler has looked extremely impressive at times, especially beneath the goal line where he seemingly cannot be stripped of the puck. The lack of a big shot is cause for concern, but blueliners like Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler have proven to be solid contributors offensively, both seeing the ice extremely well and able to make the penalty kill pay in a variety of ways. With an elite group of forwards to boot, look for the Ducks power play to trend upward as the season progresses. Although not on the power play, Fowler flexed some of his elite hockey sense with this beauty against Colorado:

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 The Final Verdict: Very Good, Not Quite Great

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Until the Ducks can prove that they can win games in spite of getting out shot and being mediocre with the extra man, it’s impossible for any objective observer to crown them as the cream of the crop. However, they remain a very good team, as few teams in the league can boast two dominant lines, two legitimate superstars, and two stellar goaltenders. It’s a blessing and a curse that Anaheim has a player like Corey Perry who can lift them to wins on his own. On one hand, he’s scoring at an absurd rate  and that’s propelled them to wins, but on the other, it allows the coaching staff to overlook systemic issues since the wins keep coming. We’ll find out what this team is truly made of once Perry slows down and the goaltending regresses to league averages.

17 thoughts on “How Good Are The Anaheim Ducks?”

  1. They have been outshot and those are just numbers… At the end of the day they have more wins and more points. So if being number one does not mean being the best then what being on top means? They can be outshot, it only proves one thing the goalie is doing his job along with the defense. It aint over till the fat lady sings.

  2. Why does Hockey attract the worst writers ever. Hockey is not baseball and attempting to make sense of this kind of “analysis” is foolish at best. The Ducks find ways to win games period. Unlike other sports working harder during a game makes a difference. The Ducks can be there own worst enemy when they take a game off. And yes they sometimes depend too much on offense. Wouldnt you if had four lines that can score and a guy like Perry on the team. In other words this team works hard and is a lot of fun to watch. If Andersen had not gotten hurt in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Cup would be 60 miles down the freeway where it belongs in Anaheim. Guys like Felix, (the clown who wrote this), hate West coast teams because their Mom gets mad when they stay up after ten o’clock down in the basement. If the Rangers were half as talented as the Ducks, the Hockey world would not stop talking about them. Go Ducks!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hey thanks for the comment! I appreciate your passion for the Ducks, and don’t take this article as me trying to bash the Ducks. Rather, they do have issues that they need to address long term, and like I state in the piece, they’re not too far removed from being at a true contender level.

  3. The Ducks, just like the last 2 years, are yet again another fantastic regular season team, and will probably hoist another Pacific Division Champs banner in 2015. Unfortunately, though, just like the last 2 years, it will be the only banner they hoist.

    • Hey thanks for the comment! I’d say that’s a likely outcome, but you never with moves they might make at the deadline.

  4. I agree with one exception; I believe they are the best team in the NHL and I believe they will play Tampa Bay for the cup and win.

  5. You say they need to “prove that they can win games in spite of getting out shot”, yet in all the games you mentioned of them being outshot, they won all but two (San Jose and the second at St. Louis). Plus this is a team that did exactly this the last two years. Now that they have vastly improved they still get no love. How about holding the Stars to one shot in the second period, or the Avs to two shots (& really the 2nd was at the buzzer from center ice)? Those are dominant periods. To be a Cup contender they need to jettison the logjam of pylons clogging the blueline and get a #1 Dman. They have such a good young blueline, they just need one piece and to be free of Allen, Stoner, Fistric or Lovejoy.

  6. Before I start I will admit I am a Ducks fan and I don’t think they are yet the best team in the NHL. That being said, the best team doesn’t always win the Cup. As far as the analytic, let me say that there are some real problems with them. These numbers reflect a whole played game and not what happened during the times of the game where the Ducks were tied or behind their opponents. After taking the lead, the Ducks have tended this year to go into a D-shell and the opposition takes chances pushing the puck toward the net while the Ducks only look to manufacture chances on the counter. While tied or behind, the Ducks have for the most part outshot, outhit, and out everything elsed their opponent, except in the game against the Blues. There is certainly some room for concern with the PP and I am not going to discount the numbers completely but I do think that they are skewed based on the system that the Ducks are now playing. People may point out their ouster in last years playoffs as an example but I hold out to them the fact that the Ducks lost their #1 net minder in Anderson and still managed to get to seven games with the SC winners with a guy who had played a handful of regular season games in net. What other team could have suffered losing their #1 guy and made it to the finals? They may not be the best, but they aren’t as far off as these numbers seem to suggest.

    • Hey man, I appreciate your insight! However, there are numbers out there that show shot attempt differentials depending on the situation of the game. In fact, you’re 100% right, in the Blues game at Honda, the Ducks DOMINATED possession for two periods, then sat on their lead in the 3rd causing the numbers to be skewed against them.

  7. That defense won’t last them long in the postseason. Just because they’re streaking in the early going of the season, doesn’t mean they’ll play like that all year.

  8. Good article! I too, have been impressed by the Ducks, Frederick Anderson has had an amazing first stretch of the season. They’re on their way to capture another top seed in the West! Of course with so many incredible teams, only time well tell. Watch out for the Minnesota Wild! haha

  9. We Duck fans have heard all this before … The numbers don’t look good..they haven’t for the last 2 years.. Corsi Numbers, shooting percentages last year… power play woes… you name it…I too kept waiting for the boat to sink all last year… well guess what, had Freddie not got hurt we may have beat the Kings in that series and went to the final… are they a cup winning team? probably not..but they are a pretty damn good team and thats enough for me…

    • Thanks for the comment Rick, gotta say that you’re not wrong here, anything can happen in the playoffs!

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