The Anaheim Ducks are in only 13th place, and still aren’t even close to the playoffs. Most of the season it has been very difficult to get a win, and to get consecutive wins was almost unthinkable. Now the Ducks are currently in a 6-0-1 streak and are playing amazing hockey. Is it to late? Maybe. The Ducks would need to finish the season 29-8 to get 97 points and sneak into the playoffs. A coupe of weeks ago that would have sounded impossible, but with the way the team has been playing lately it almost seems like a possibility. The Ducks have scored at least 4 goals in each of the 6 wins in the 7 game streak winning 4-2, 7-4, 5-2, 5-0, 4-2, and 6-2. That is an incredible 31 goals in the 6 wins. Here is a look at how the Ducks have turned it around these last two weeks, and who knows if they keep it up may even end up in the playoff race.
The coaching change was a big turning point for the Ducks this season. I am not going to say Randy Carlyle was a bad coach. He is the only coach in the Ducks franchise to lead the team to win the Stanley Cup. However, it was clear that his message wasn’t getting through to the team anymore and it was time for a change. Bruce Boudreau seemed to wake the team up. The Ducks are playing with passion now that clearly had been missing for most of the first half of the season. The team is definitely buying into Boudreau’s system, and it shows. The Ducks took a big chance by making Boudreau the head coach, and so far it has paid off.
Most Ducks fans aren’t too happy with Bob Murray, but he also played a role in the turn around. Ever since Murray made the statement that every played on the Ducks roster was available for trade with the exception of Teemu Selanne, and Saku Koivu the Ducks turned it around. Now that could be a coincidence sure, but on the other hand it also could have lit a fire under the team and got them to start playing with the passion needed to win in th NHL.
Another reason the Ducks have been winning lately is the secondary scoring has really picked it up during the last 7 games. In fact, to be more specific the Ducks have really turned it around when Jason Blake returned from injury. On a team filled with big names like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Teemu Selanne you really wouldn’t think of Blake as a game changer, but the reality is the Ducks are 8-2-1 with Blake in the line-up this season. Putting Niklas Hagman on the second line with Selanne, and Koivu, let the Ducks be able to move Blake to the third line, and really spread out the scoring. Blake has scored 4 goals, and has had 4 assists for 8 points in the 8 games since he has been back from injury. His new line-mates Nick Bonino, and Andrew Cogliano have also played really well and have picked up the offensive side of their game ever since Blake returned to the Ducks line-up. Even the play of the 4th line has picked up of late as Matt Belesky has scored the first 2 goals of his season in the last 2 games.
The depth scoring for sure has been huge, but that being said another reason the Ducks have turned it around in the last 7 games is the big name players on the Ducks are starting to produce like they are expected too. Perry is starting to put the puck in the back of the net again scoring 6 goals and 2 assists in those games and has been playing the way he did the second half of last season which earned him the leagues MVP. Selanne has been one of the few Ducks this season that has played very well the whole season and during this recent stretch has been no different as he has 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in the last 7 games. Bobby Ryan has also been hot of late scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in the last 7 games adding more goals to his already big high-light real. Getzlaf has really picked it up recently as well, playing much better defensively, and like usual he seems to play much better when he plays more physical and has been credited with 17 hits in the last 7 games as well as helping out offensively with 1 goal and 5 assists.
The Ducks have also improved dramatically on Defense. Allowing far less shots during the winning streak than earlier in the season. Players like Toni Lydman who seemed to be nowhere near as good as last year have really been showing up lately. It shouldn’t be understated how much of an important role Lydman plays with the team. He doesn’t show up on the score sheet but he is a great shut down defenseman when he is on his game. Lubomir Visnovsky, and Cam Fowler have also both improved defensively as well as provided some offense. Perhaps the best Ducks D-man during this stretch has been Francois Beauchemin. His physical play has really pick up of late at well as his offense scoring 2 goals and 5 assists in the last 7 games along with a +/- of +10. Luca Sbisa has also picked up his game lately. Along with his physical style he is also starting to get a little bit of power play time on the second unit which seemed to have helped his confidence and bring his play to another level. Coach Boudreau recently said of Sbisa: “I think he is a silent star in the making”. If the way Sbisa has been playing the last 2 weeks is any indication Boudreau might be right.
Last but certainly not least, one of the major reasons the Ducks have turned things around lately is the play of their goaltending and in particular Jonas Hiller. Hiller’s play has improved dramatically of late. In the first half of the season Hiller did not look like the All-Star goalie that Duck fans are used to seeing. Sure it’s helped that the Ducks defense has been playing much better, but Hiller has made all the big saves when they have mattered and in Hiller’s last 5 games he is 4-0-1 with a 1.50 GAA and a .939 save percentage.
Can the Ducks keep up this hot streak? Only time will tell. Is playoffs even thinkable? Right now it is such a huge mountain to climb that it is still unlikely. What Ducks fans have now though that they didn’t have before is hope. Isn’t the game more fun when we are winning? Sure it is! Hopefully the team can keep it up, and if not at least right now we get a chance to see how the team is truly capable of playing when they are on their game.