Raise your hand up high if you predicted the Anaheim Ducks to win the Stanley Cup before the 2015-2016 regular season started. Don’t be ashamed, I was right there with you. Even if you chose another team to hoist the cup in the spring of 2016, you have to admit that you did not expect the Ducks to experience such a slow start to this season.
Sitting in fifth place in an extremely weak Pacific Division with ten points separating them from the first place Los Angeles Kings is not where Anaheim, their fans, or the rest of the NHL pictured this team being at this point in the season. The offense has struggled mightily and at some points has been straight up non-existent. The team currently sits at the bottom of the NHL in goals-for per game with an average of 1.93. This is far from the 2.78 number they put up during the 2014-2015 season, and even further from the 3.21 number the year prior.
Anaheim’s offensive woes can be attributed to uncharacteristically slow starts from most of their biggest producers. Corey Perry is the only player on the roster to record double-digit goals thus far with ten, and four goals separate him from the second highest total. Although he has had is fair share of assists, Ryan Getzlaf has not been able to put the puck in the back of the net with a goalie between the pipes. Read that sentence again because I am being dead serious! Getzlaf’s only goal this season was an empty-netter. The sad story continues with the likes of Ryan Kesler with three goals, and Jakob Silfverberg and Carl Hagelin both with a measly two.
A Switch to the Game Plan
For a team that could always rely on putting up four to five goals a night in the past, this disappearance of offense has forced a not so smooth transition. Although the unpleasant beginning of the season has dug a nice hole for the Ducks to get out of, it appears that defense and strong goaltending (from John Gibson in particular) seems to be turning things around.
Since the last game of November against the Canucks, the Ducks have managed to hold teams to two goals or less. Their goals-against per game number has dropped down to a respectable 2.39 as a result. If the opposition can be limited to one or two goals a game, the Ducks should be able to put themselves in a decent enough position to win every night.
In addition, this style of play can serve as great preparation for a postseason the team should make where the focus turns to defense and goaltending, and games are much more low scoring. With a strong defensive core, net minders such as Gibson, Frederik Anderson, and Anton Khudobin, and some hard hitting forwards, this formula could prove to be a very successful one.
The Goals Will Come
Yes, the offense for the Anaheim Ducks has been as close to awful as it could possibly get for the first 28 games of the regular season. However, there is just no way this goal drought can last for everybody going through it. Ducks’ fans have to stay optimistic that the struggling forwards such as Getzlaf and Kesler will eventually find their mojo and start putting up the numbers we expect from them on a nightly basis. Once the funks that all of these players currently find themselves in are shaken off, Anaheim could very well be viewed as cup contender again.
Until the offense can get moving, the Ducks are going to have to continue to rely on their strong play defensively. Anaheim will look to record their third straight victory when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town on Friday night.