Looking forward to next season, the Anaheim Ducks have a tall task at hand. The Ducks have proven they can play well in the regular season winning back-to-back Pacific Division Championships, but what about the playoffs?
Under the new NHL playoff system, the teams now play opponents in the first two rounds based on their division standing. This means that if the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Ducks all make the playoffs then there is a good chance of some combination involving two of these teams will meet in the first and/or second round of the playoffs. We saw this last year with the Sharks and Kings playing each other in the first round and then the Ducks and Kings in the second round.
This new playoff format makes for exciting playoff hockey against rival teams.
However, it also means if the Ducks are going to have success in the future they need to get past the Kings in the playoffs. I believe last season’s Ducks team could have gotten past the Kings. If the Ducks would have held on and won game 1, then I believe they would have most likely gone on to win the series. Despite losing the first two games at home, the Ducks responded with three wins in a row. Imagine if the Ducks had won game 1 how the rest of the series would have been?
Of course even if the Ducks had won game 1, then maybe the Kings still could have won the series too. The point is that series was very close. The series went seven games and it could have gone either way. But how can the Ducks improve and become better to get past the Kings? There are three areas of concern the Ducks must address:
As I discussed in my last post, faceoffs was one of the biggest problem areas for the Ducks against the Kings. In game 6 the Kings won 40 faceoffs as opposed to 27 wins for the Ducks. In game 7, it was the same story with the Kings holding a 39 to 25 advantage in faceoff wins. Looking at the series totals, the Kings won 262 faceoffs compared to the 214 won by the Ducks.
Kesler had a regular season winning percentage of 52.6% in the faceoff circle last year. Thompson had was 50.9% in faceoff wins during the regular season and 62.5% in the playoffs last year. During the playoffs last year, Nick Bonino and Mathieu Perreault lost more faceoffs then they won. Their winning percentages were 45.8% and 43.1% respectively in the playoffs. Despite the departure of Bonino and Perreault, Murray has addressed this problem successfully by signing Kesler and Thompson.
Another of concern for the Ducks is the Kings aggressive forecheck. There were times during the series last year where the Kings would get the puck deep and the Ducks would get pinned in their own zone. We all remember the end of game 1, but there were other moments especially in games six and seven where the Ducks had trouble clearing the puck.
Murray addressed this issue by signing Clayton Stoner. Stoner brings a physical presence, grit, and fighting ability to the Ducks blue line. He will go into the corners and get in the scrums to battle for the puck. He will help clear the puck out of the zone or tie up opposing team’s forwards slowing down an up ice rush or delaying the forecheck.
During the playoffs last season against the Kings, the Ducks’ powerplay had more ups and downs than a roller coaster ride. In games 1 and 2 against the Kings, the Ducks were 1 for 8 on the powerplay. Over the course of the next three games the Ducks were 4 for 8 on the powerplay and won all three of those games. But in the final two games of the series, the Ducks were 0 for 8 with the man advantage. Looking at these statistics, you can see the Ducks had chances in the games they lost, but just couldn’t cash in.
The addition of Kesler with help the Ducks’ powerplay tremendously. He lead the mediocre Canucks team with 9 powerplay goals last year. So imagine the Ducks’ first powerplay unit with the big trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Kelser on it? The Ducks now have two centers with good faceoff circle winning percentages and three players who can score. Another advantage is if Getzlaf or Kesler get kicked out of the faceoff circle, then the other can take the draw. The Ducks should be able to be more consistent on the powerplay by winning more faceoffs, which will lead to more time in the offensive zone creating more scoring opportunities.
So can the Ducks get past the Kings?
Yes they can because they addressed the issues of faceoffs, defense, and the powerplay. The next question is can the Ducks win it all next season? Only time will tell.
Is it October 9th yet?
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