October has ended, and the Anaheim Ducks didn’t have a bad start to the hockey season. There are quite a few things to take away from their 8-6-0 start to 2019-20.
It’s November 1st, which means the first month of the NHL season has come to it’s end. The Anaheim Ducks have played their first 14 games of the season, going 8-6-0, enough to be tied for 3rd place in the Pacific Division and in the thick of the wild-card race. While the Ducks have had their ups and downs, the team hasn’t lacked a lot of fight or want, for the most part. There is a lot we can glean from their performance, but four main points stand out.
The Wall Stands Firm
For the most part, John Gibson has been one of the best parts of the team. Without him, the team would be in worse shape, maybe in last place. He has given up some costly goals, but for the most part, he’s been on point, with a 2.66 GAA and a .920% save percentage. His best moment so far was against Winnipeg, when he kept the Jets from tying the game with the save of the year. As the season goes on, as long as he stays healthy, himself, and patient with the younger guys in the D core, this may be the year Gibson finally gets some recognition and wins the coveted Vezina. More importantly, he may be the backstop that pushes the Ducks into the playoffs.
The one thing I would say that is a negative is that he has given up some soft goals, which isn’t a habit that goalies want to have as the season goes on. I also would caution Gibson on two fronts: number 1, have patience with the young D core, as they’re trying to find their strengths and weaknesses, and number 2, (this more on coach Dallas Eakins than on Gibson), to not allow yourself to be run down to the ground, and let Ryan Miller take some of the slack from time to time.
All in all, I would say that with time and patience, the wall of Gibby will stand firm. If he leads by example and helps mentor the defensemen to be where they need to be, that will go a long way for the remainder of the season. So far, he’s stepped up and maybe with Randy Carlyle gone and Eakins’ system in place, things can look better in the future.
Rise of the New Guard Defense
There a lot of ways I can go with this, so I’ll start with the bad news. The fact that Josh Manson is out for at least 2-3 months is bad, considering he’s one of the few vets who can mentor the younger D core, as well as bring the intensity and physicality towards the opponent. With that said, the defense hasn’t looked too bad after all, only giving up two and a half goals per game, ranking tied for seventh with Carolina.
That’s good news to hear for us Anaheim Ducks fans, considering that most of the defensemen are younger. Yes, the defense hasn’t always been perfect, there was the disaster where they gave up six goals to Nashville on the road. Outside of that though, the Ducks’ defense has looked better, limiting opponents to one goal four times. Their best moment so far was against Colorado, considering the offensive fireworks they have on the first line, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. For them to limit the Avs offense to two goals, and not allowing the big line to dominate the entire game was crucial, especially on the road.
I now want to point out some individuals who have made some contributions for our defense. First off, Captain America, aka, Cam Fowler, who passed Scott Niedermayer for most goals as a Ducks defenseman. Cam may only have seven points, but his three goals have been dynamite including a game-winner to boot. To me, he’s been asked to carry the load and he has produced, I might add. He still needs to work on the power-play QB skills, but overall I like how he’s taken charge and helping the younger guys to make plays not only in their own zone but on the offensive as well.
Another guy who I want to highlight is Hampus Lindholm. Number one, he is tied with Adam Henrique and Ryan Getzlaf for second in plus-minus with a +9 rating so far. While he doesn’t have a goal so far, he does have nine assists which leads the team. With Manson is out for a while, it’s up to Lindholm and Fowler to lead the way until the young guys can pull their own weight.
Back to the negative side, the Ducks have struggled lately to stay out of the penalty box. Right now, they are fifth in PIM (penalty minutes). Two of the penalty categories in which they are high on are for roughing and hooking. There are different factors into why the Anaheim Ducks are high in the penalties department, but what I point to are three things: refs, bad habits and not being in the right spot.
While I do think sometimes the refs do fall for the hokey-doke, for the most part, I do look at our team for not being at the right spot at the right time. Sometimes, the penalties are due to not being able to match up with the opposing teams’ forwards, but for the most part, being at the right spot does cut down the PIM a lot.
All in all, despite struggling with staying out of the penalty box and sometimes leaving Gibson high and dry, the Ducks’ defense hasn’t looked totally bad like other people have said. With more time, the defense will get better and be a force to reckon with in a jam-packed Western Conference.
Now, About the Offense
While the Ducks haven’t been high-flyers on offense, they have produced when the moment has called for them to. The last game before the month ended, the Ducks scored seven goals against the Jets, who are a tough bunch to play against. Leading the way for the Anaheim Ducks has been Adam Henrique, who leads the team with eight goals. Another big reason why the Ducks have been at least serviceable is Jakob Silfverberg, who leads the team in overall points, with eleven (six goals and five helpers.) Those two have led the way so far, and they need to keep it up, considering that the others are trying to find their way. Even though their goal differential is only four, the fact that everyone has been finding their own ways to contribute so far is a positive sign.
The one thing, however, they haven’t improved on is on the power-play. It’s easy to say they haven’t popped the cork on the power-play scoring bottle, only scoring three PPGs, but what I will say is the Ducks, for the most part, have looked at least better, getting prime real estate chances, just not being able to score on the opposing teams’ goalies. As far as I’m concerned, the Ducks don’t look as bad as they looked in times past, where they didn’t get a lot of chances at all, so to me, that’s a step in the right direction. I believe as the season goes on, the Ducks will finally get things going.
On the positive side, some of the rookies have looked very good so far. Troy Terry got his second goal of the season against the Jets, Max Comtois has five points so far, so the rookies have participated so far, and while they have had their struggles, I believe the best is yet to come. In the end, this offense has done their share to at least put them in a good situation so far, which is why I’ll give the offense a respectable grade.
New Regime = Better Results?
When Randy Carlyle was let go, and then Bob Murray took over midway last year, there were talks from the fans, as to who would take over the reins for this year. There were some candidates, but GMBM decided to go inside the organization and hire Dallas Eakins. A lot of people haven’t liked the decision so far, but I’ll give you guys reasons why to like this move.
Unlike RC, Eakins has implemented a style of offense that allows the defense to join the rush. His relationship with the younger guys also helps the cause, as he knows what buttons to push with them and how to guide them through the terrains of the NHL. It’s also good that despite the struggles, he got this team off to a good start, so far. It has definetly kept the fans from losing faith early on and start doubting that this year would be a waste.
More from Analysis
As far as where he can improve, he needs to make sure that he doesn’t run John Gibson into the ground, inserting Ryan Miller in the lineup from time to time. By doing that, he allows Gibson time to rest and allows him to be his best when the team needs him too. He also needs to build good relationships with the veterans as well, particularly, the captain, Ryan Getzlaf, as he is one of the elder statesmen of the flock.
If he can continue to get better in that department, that will go a long way. I also think that he can’t lose the team mentally and emotionally. There will be times where the team will struggle because of many factors, youth, and inexperience that may be a huge factor. He must make sure the team doesn’t go sideways and stays together, through the thick and thin.
As far as on the ice issues, Coach Eakins must find a way to unleash the rookies’ scoring abilities, as well as the special teams, particularly on the power-play. The rookies have had splashes of brilliance, but if they’re going to last and have a huge impact on this team, consistency will be a huge deal for them.
It doesn’t have to be in the flashy categories either, but on the defensive end, be selectively aggressive, using their speed in order to match the opposing teams’ forwards. If the rookies can unleash, the Anaheim Ducks will be dangerous going forward this year. As for the power-play, that’s been a topic that hasn’t been solved but needs to ASAP.
The Ducks have been doing well-drawing penalties but haven’t done well enough to make the other team pay for their mistakes. All in all, the fact that Eakins has the Anaheim Ducks in favorable positions, instead of being at the bottom of the barrel, that’s good enough for me to give Coach Eakins a good grade.
Comments and Concerns
Overall, the Anaheim Ducks earn an overall C grade so far for the month. The weaknesses to me loom large, but the fact that the Ducks have shown the potential that the future looks good down the road as well as in the now, I’m not going to be the guy who dwells in the negative. As the months go on, I’ll be tracking the results, but if there was one thing, I would say the Ducks would need to improve on: defense. Stop taking stupid penalties, be smart with the puck, and communicate better. Chemistry will develop as the season goes on, so I’m not going to overwhelmingly say it’s bad, but there is room to improve.
On the positive side, the offense has provided some punch. Henrique and Silfverberg have been dominant, carrying the load so far. Eventually, the rest of the team will follow suit, but until then, ride the hot hand. Also, Gibson, stay healthy, please. This team will not succeed without your otherworldly goaltending skills. As for the fans, stay positive and patient, this team may not win the Stanley Cup, but I will say they will force the rest of the Pacific division to recognize that we’re coming for them.
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