The Anaheim Ducks enter a big weekend matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. With the games on consecutive nights and on the road, it will be one of the biggest test for the team this season.
Both the Blues and Blackhawks sit atop the Central Division, and are two of the top three teams in the West – with Chicago currently the top team in the league in terms of points. This will be the first time that the Ducks have matched up against either team.
Among other reasons, two of the common themes that these teams share as a major factor to being atop the standings are their ability to put the puck in the net (not surprising) and their power play efficiency. With the Blues ranked third and Chicago ranked tenth on the man advantage, special teams will play a big factor in determining how many of the four possible points they will escape the weekend with.
For the first part of the season, this would be a major concerning factor, but with the recent surge of the Ducks’ penalty kill, they quickly becoming one of the stingiest penalty killing teams in the league.
Since allowing two power play goals against the New Jersey Devils on November 20, the Ducks have killed off 24-straight penalties. Going back to the 20th, they have killed 25-of-27 penalties.
Leading the way for the Ducks have been a group of players who have stepped up and carried the load shorthanded. In the five-of-six games that they had to kill a penalty – Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Winnik, and Ryan Getzlaf.
Four of them have averaged over three minutes a game- with Fowler nearly spending four minutes a game on the penalty kill during the streak.
The main reason behind their success? Speed, and aggressiveness.
This is no more evident than when Cogliano is on the ice. While he is ‘only’ averaging just over two minutes a game – he makes those minutes count, using his speed to hustle in the offensive zone to disrupt the opposing team’s ability to set up their breakout. Blocked shots has been another big factor, as they still sit third in the NHL as a team blocking shots.
Even with the success of the penalty kill, the Ducks would be better suited to stay out of the box. It’s a small play on irony – the best part of the Ducks’ game recently has been the aspect they would like to avoid all together.