Anaheim Ducks: Kesler’s Slow Comeback a Potential Playoff Hazard

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 2: Ryan Kesler
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 2: Ryan Kesler /

The Anaheim Ducks have greatly benefited from Ryan Kesler’s outstanding defensive play since his arrival in 2014. This season, he hasn’t been the same stalwart as he was in the past. It creates a serious post-season problem for the Ducks.

Problem 1 – He Not All That Right Now

When healthy, Anaheim Ducks Ryan Kesler is one of the best two-way centers in the game. He has won a Selke Award, given annually to the top defensive forward in the league, and has five other top-five finishes. Unfortunately, that guy hasn’t been around much this season.

After last year’s extended playoff run, we learned Kesler played with a bad hip which required surgery. Subsequent rehabilitation took six months. He returned the day after Christmas and promptly went -3 for the game. Anyone who follows the Anaheim Ducks closely can see Kesler struggling at times to play his normal checking game. He obviously isn’t anywhere near 100 percent.

Problem 2 – Not Square in the Circle

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The injury has also affected his usual faceoff dominance. Kessler’s win percentage in the dot is the three-and-a-half percent lower than any other season he’s had as a Duck at 53.1%. Some would say its only 3.5% down, that’s not too bad, It is that bad.

His win percentage in the defensive zone this year is only 50.9%. That number is against the entire league, not just playoff teams. From bad to worse, he’s only won 46.6% of draws shorthanded in the defensive zone. Now comes the comes the cumulative effect.

Devastating Duo

Kesler is often matched against the opposition’s best line. Here are the offensive zone win percentages of the Ducks potential opening round opponents top center:

Nashville – Ryan Johansen – 53.7%

Vegas – Erik Haula – 50.9%

Los Angeles – Anze Kopitar – 54.1%

San Jose – Joe Pavelski – 58%

So now you have your best defensive center as a shell of his usual self, playing against some of the most dangerous centers in the NHL. He isn’t winning as many faceoffs in his own end against all teams, let alone the prowess of the top guy on each potential first-round opponent. Compounding it all, he’s doing even worse when taking shorthanded defensive draws.

Next: Expert Panel - Ducks Biggest Playoff Weakness

It all translates to top players having more opportunities to shoot the puck at the Anaheim Ducks goal. A factor that will kill any team in the playoffs.