Rough season or not, the Anaheim Ducks are blazing hot. In what seemed to be the road trip right out of a nightmare, Anaheim stuck through and got points in all five games. A swing all the way across the continent and up into Canada saw the Ducks climb up from the bottom of the standings over their California foes.
The Ducks fandom has been very split this season between wanting the team to finish close to contending or down at the bottom, but one thing that Ducks fans can enjoy together is that beautiful winning feeling, and although this trip has not been all sunshine and rainbows, getting points again has been fun. But more importantly, it has propelled the Ducks to be only eight points out of that backlogged second wild card spot. Let’s dive into what is helping the Ducks find success after a 3-2 victory in Buffalo that saw a full team effort.
As was the case with the rest of the season, it has been the veteran skaters that have put on a show in scoring. Over the entire road trip, the Anaheim Ducks only once fell short of three or more goals, and that is an encouraging sight for a team that struggles so heavily with finding offense. Skaters like Derek Grant, Nick Ritchie, and Jakob Silfverberg have been hot as of late, and it is lifting the rest of the team to new heights.
Chemistry also plays a big part in the way the veterans have played together, but it is their own experience and merit that has carried the team far. The biggest contributor over the road trip for the Ducks was Derek Grant, the man who had three goals in five games and came up big in momentum swings. His skating has looked very fresh and his ability to find the back of the net has made him a real veteran presence for this younger Ducks team. For a player that bounced in and out of the Ducks, Grant has been a real winner.
As great as Grant and the rest of the veterans have been, the ducklings did their part just as well. They finally found their place in a different way, however. They have become excellent set-up men.
Ducklings and Apples
A recurring theme on this road trip was the younger skaters boosting the veterans by setting up the plays and following through by getting into a good position around the net. Nothing amazing or fancy, but look at the results. Over their last ten games, this Ducks squad has scored thirty goals. They scored thirty-two goals over the entirety of the thirteen games they played so close together in December.
Key players like Max Jones, Sam Steel, and finally Troy Terry are all clicking. Perhaps they will never fit into the role of an elite scorer, but finding people who can help the scorers has been a blessing for the Ducks. Ondrej Kase, although not performing nearly to what most hoped he could, is still out on the ice assisting the plays as well. He currently has sixteen assists throughout the season in fifty games and leads his other counterparts in the assists area.
With all this offensive power now coming to light, the last takeaway from this road trip would logically have to be something on the defensive powers keeping the opponents at bay. And this Ducks defense has put out some serious work.
Standing Tall on Defense
Aside from that crazy 4-5 OT loss in Toronto, the Anaheim Ducks have not let up more than three goals in a given game while scoring three goals on average. For Ducks fans, that is the sweetest thing they could hope to read about this team. They are finally matching how many goals they give up, and it has worked wonders for them outside of those two OT losses.
Yet again in the category of defense, the veterans are on a tear. Korbinian Holtzer and Hampus Lindholm lead the team in blocked shots with seventy-six and sixty shots blocked separately, Carter Rowney and Nicolas Deslauriers lead the team in hits with 153 and 103, and Cam Fowler leads the team with a 3.1 ranking in defensive point shares. Although not always the most effective defense, it has been serviceable late in close games, unlike last season. Alongside the offense, the defense is the reason the Ducks got eight points out of a ten-point road trip.
Goaltenders Ryan Miller and John Gibson stood tall when the defense became shakey, and they saved the Ducks on their way to three wins and two OT losses. Ryan Miller stunned the LA Kings, the Buffalo Sabres, and beforehand kept the game close against the Toronto Maple Leafs. John Gibson outperformed Ottawa and came up just short in Montreal. Miller made 107 saves through three games and Gibson made fifty-four saves in his two starts, so both did a solid job.
In closing, the Anaheim Ducks looked like a certified lottery team before they proved themselves by getting eight points out of a tough ten-point eastern road swing through Canada back into the United States by having a balanced offense and solid defense with their goaltending. They managed to hop both the Kings and the Sharks to get into a position where they are eight points shy of a wild card berth, and the season has never looked better in the eyes of both the players and the fans. From here, who knows where the season goes, but the one thing that is certain is that this team has finally learned to play well together more consistently.
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