Anaheim Ducks Defense Is Not What It Seems To Be, Needs A Remedy

Oct 13, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle during the game against Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Ducks 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle during the game against Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Ducks 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

As the season reaches the All-Star Break, the Anaheim Ducks has some fine-tuning that needs to be done as the post All-Star part of the schedule approaches.

The Statistics on Defense:

  • T-13th in Goals allowed – 128
  • 7th in Goals Allowed/G – 2.51
  • T-8th in Shots Allowed/G – 29.1
  • 9th in Penalty Kill% – 83.4%
  • T-19th in Power Play Goals Allowed – 29
  • T-11th in Home PK% – 83.3%
  • T-13th in Home PPGA – 13
  • T-9th in Road PK% – 83.5%
  • 20th in Road PPGA – 16
  • T-8th in 1st Period Goals Allowed – 33
  • 27th in 2nd Period Goals Allowed – 54
  • 1st in 3rd Period Goals Allowed – 33

If fans looked at strictly these numbers no one would think that Anaheim has had any struggles on defense this year.

Ah! How the numbers can be deceiving. The Ducks have had major defensive struggles mostly due to 2 things; Miscommunication and overaggressive play.

Let’s use last night’s game as an example.

Exhibit A – Edmonton’s first goal:

On this Leon Draisaitl goal, Kevin Bieksa goes to the ice thinking shot block. However, this overaggressive play gave the shooter even more room to shoot the puck. In this case if the defender stays upright, it forces the man with the puck to have to pass.

Instead, Draisaitl has a clear shot at John Gibson and beats him for the 1st goal of the game.

Exhibit B – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ Goal:

On this goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nick Ritchie is beaten on the play and is expecting Hampus Lindholm to come over the top to cut Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off.

Instead, Lindholm goes for the passer and when he did that, it gave Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a clear cut to the net with no one to cut him off. The result? A goal and a 2-0 lead for Edmonton.

Exhibit C – The Kassian Goal:

On this play, Nick Ritchie does a very poor job of not impeding Zach Kassian’s break to the puck and takes a bad route into the play to begin with. Sami Vatanen compounds things with a wild dive at the puck.

This angle shows that not only does the overly aggressive dive take Sami Vatanen out of the play, it also screened Nick Ritchie out of the play as well. As a result neither of them are in any position to make a play or get back into the play.

Fans have seen; blown assignment, coverage busts, overloads on one side of the defensive zone, wide open shooters, open backdoor plays, and on down the list. All as a result of the Ducks over-aggression on the defensive side.

Over-aggression on defense results in easily getting exposed defensively, give up too many big plays and you make it easy on offenses that can break pressure. These mistakes are far too often seen.

So, all this said what’s the solution to this problem?:

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I would suggest the Anaheim Ducks convert to a zone defensive style of play. I suggest this for several reasons.

In zone defense, the five on the ice are responsible for a particular area of the defensive zone. The Ducks current scheme, which is man-to-man, assigns a play to a corresponding player.

The zone keep the puck on the perimeter, and with players having one hand on their stick on defense, it’s harder to pass the puck to the net and it clogs up shooting lanes as well.

Its also a very conservative defense, but as a result – they won’t surrender as many big plays, its harder to score against.

The most important thing about playing zone defense; you force the opposing team’s offense to find the holes in your zone coverage rather than you giving them gaping holes in man-to-man.

Can Anaheim play this style?:

Well, the answer to this question is easy to give, should one take a look at the current roster.

The Anaheim Ducks certainly have the mobility and speed in the defense and the forwards makes this idea work. They also have the time over this All-star break to run it in practice and implement it. Both things essential if a team is to make a tweak of this kind.

Next: Anaheim Handed Fourth Loss Of The Month By Edmonton

I think it would be a better scheme defensively and would cut down on the mistakes that fans have seen in so many games this season. It would also behoove the coaching staff to tell the player to “reserve the aggressive, pressure defense in board play.”

So, from an X’s and O’s standpoint it seems doable, whether it is actually done only time will tell.