As we ring in the New Year, every team in the NHL has its resolutions to improve the roster and/or play on the ice.
The Anaheim Ducks are no exception. On January 2nd, the Ducks sit second in the Pacific Division but face issues that could derail this team’s playoff hopes.
There are four important resolutions that could better Anaheim’s chances to clinch a spot to chase the Stanley Cup.
Win a Game in Overtime
Entering December 31, the Ducks were winless in seven five-minute extra time and were 2-7-1 beyond regulation. The last overtime loss came after blowing a 2-0 lead against division rival Vancouver Canucks on Friday. Anaheim had its chances but failed to bury its opportunities. They simply can’t get it done. And it’s costing this team extra points and a higher division standing.
As the new calendar year turns and the second half of the season begins, every point matters. The Ducks can’t afford to leave extra points on the table especially in games when they control the first 60 and then fall flat in extra time.
It’s especially critical in a tight Pacific Division race. As of New Year’s Eve, five teams in the division are within seven points of each other: San Jose Sharks (47 points, 37 games played), Anaheim (46 pts, 39 GP), Edmonton Oilers (45 pts, 38 GP), Calgary Flames (42 pts, 39 GP) and the Los Angeles Kings aren’t fall back with 40 points in 37 games.
Last season the Ducks defensive unit was one of the best in the league winning the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against. A year later, it’s one of the problem areas. The Ducks have the 18th-worst goals-against average (2.76) and have surrendered the 11th most goals (108).
For the Ducks to make a playoff push, the defense as a whole must improve dramatically. Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle has focused on tightening the defense as this team has not conceded more than two goals in regulation in the last four games, three of which were overtime losses. While the Ducks are one of the better teams minimizing shots against (28.8), they give up too many point-blank or high slot chances.
In the New Year, Anaheim needs more consistent play from the defense in front of their net. Also, the Ducks must focus on front goal presence, body positioning, blocking shots, limiting giveaways and limiting odd man rushes.
Trade for a Scoring Winger
While it’s not up to the team, the front office must trade for a legit scoring threat winger, preferably a left shooting, left winger. The trade deadline still two months away, Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler remain trade bait despite the former recently signing a five-year contract and the latter emerging as the Ducks’ most reliable blueliner.
There’s no immediate need with young Ducklings in Nick Ritchie, Joseph Cramarossa and Ondrej Kase performing well. However, in a tight division race with teams making a final playoff push, the Ducks will need more balanced scoring to keep pace. Anaheim has been tied to Toronto Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk and Detroit Red Wings Tomas Tatar. But if history is any indication, general manager Bob Murray has his own mysterious plans.
Penalties! Please, Limit Penalties.
The Ducks don’t hold the title as the No.1 most penalized team, that goes to the Calgary Flames (475 penalty minutes). But Anaheim is 2nd with 470.
In the second half of the season, the Ducks would make their lives easier by minimizing the penalties and staying disciplined. Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim was sent to the sin bin seven times and was ultimately its demise. In the last four games, the Ducks have been shown the gate 20 times.
If the Ducks limit their trips to the box, they wouldn’t have to concede momentum. The first half of the season narrative was the momentum killing penalties since their penalty kill unit isn’t as smothering as last year.
Staying true to these resolutions, the Ducks could position themselves with a good shot a playoff run.