The 2015-16 regular season for the Anaheim Ducks can best be described as a yo-yo. Before the first puck drop of the season, Anaheim was a Stanley Cup favorite, after being so close to making the finals in 2015. However, the team got off to a horrific start and quickly fell to the NHL’s basement. The discussions started circling around Bruce Boudreau’s job and the Ducks being more of a lottery team than one destined for the playoffs.
Then, just as quickly as they fell, Anaheim turned things around and began their climb up the Pacific Division standings. Now the Ducks are right back where everyone expected them to be all season, sitting one point behind the first-place Kings with a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs already secure.
The Western Conference is full of Stanley Cup Champion worthy teams, as it is every year, and the Ducks are one of them. Some may be hesitant to give this team a legitimate shot of going all the way because of the early season woes they suffered. However, Anaheim is a true contender this spring and there is a realistic possibility that this team will be the ones hoisting up the Stanley Cup when it is all said and done.
Here is why…
Anaheim’s blueline is the glue that has held this team together all season long. Even when the offense was nowhere to be found, the defense kept the Ducks in games they had no business being in.
The Ducks have only allowed 177 total goals this season and are averaging 2.33 goals against per game. In addition, they are one of the best teams at limiting the opposition’s shots on goal. On average, teams are only managing 27.5 shots per game on the Ducks.
High-scoring contests in hockey are normally seen most frequently during the regular season. Five to six-goal games are less likely once the postseason begins. Anaheim’s skill and depth on defense, as well its defensively strong forwards, give them the opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The Ducks do not only have one goalie capable of leading this team deep into the postseason and beyond, they have two. Both Frederik Andersen and John Gibson have been phenomenal between the pipes for Anaheim this season. Andersen has seen action in 42 games, allowing an average 2.36 goals per game with a save percentage of .917. The 22-year-old Gibson has been just as good, if not better, this season. He has seen less action than Andersen, playing in 35 games. However, he has both a superior goals against average (2.04) and save percentage (.920).
Coach Boudreau’s toughest decision before the playoffs begin is choosing which netminder he wants to appoint his “number one”. Luckily, no matter who he chooses, both Gibson and Andersen will be more well rested than most of the opposition’s goalies who have had to take on more of a workload during the regular season.
Top Notch Special Teams
The Ducks are the NHL’s best when it comes to special teams. It is one thing to possess the best powerplay in the league, it is a whole different ballgame when you are also the best team when it comes to the penalty kill as well. Anaheim sits in first in both categories, capitalizing on 23.6% of their powerplay opportunities and killing 86.6% of the opposition’s chances.
Once the playoffs begin, teams tend to focus more on discipline and commit fewer penalties as a result. Obviously, this means fewer powerplay opportunities. However, Anaheim’s special teams will still get the chance to strut their stuff occasionally during the postseason. When the opportunity arises you can bet that players such as Corey Perry (21 powerplay points) and Ryan Getzlaf (20 powerplay points) will capitalize.
Hunger Like No Other
When the postseason starts, all 16 teams will demonstrate a hunger to be crowned the 2016 Stanley Cup Champions. Some teams have been showing that hunger all season long. However, Anaheim’s hunger comes from a different place. The team is desperate to prove that they are truly of the NHL’s elite. After their impressive demonstration in last year’s playoffs, we were all ready to put them there. As I mentioned earlier, the Ducks were the preseason favorite to win it all in 2016.
The team is desperate to prove that they are truly of the NHL’s elite. After their impressive demonstration in last year’s playoffs, we were all ready to put them there. As I mentioned earlier, the Ducks were the preseason favorite to win it all in 2016. After Anaheim’s early season struggles, everyone involved in hockey began to question how “elite” this team actually is. The Ducks were able to save their season and now sit among the league’s best in the standings. However, Anaheim’s turnaround will mean absolutely nothing if they are eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
In reality, the Ducks can only be satisfied with their efforts this season if they win the Stanley Cup. Every member of this team is fully aware of this and they are set on proving to the world that they are the NHL’s best. It is that kind of hunger that took the Ducks out of the league’s basement and into the playoff picture. It is that same hunger that will lead Anaheim to their second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
John Gove is an elementary school educator who writes about hockey in his spare team. Over the past five years, John has covered the game at various levels. Now, he exclusively focuses his coverage on prospects and the developmental leagues.