December 1, 2021

Ducks analysis: What have we learned from the season’s first 20 games?

View Original Notice ? Ducks analysis: What have we learned from the season’s first 20 games?

Mittens & Max - Personalized Pet Urns-Keepsakes-Jewelry

If the ancient NHL theory rings true that you are who you are by Thanksgiving, then the Ducks are a playoff team. They awoke Thursday morning to find themselves in fourth place in the Pacific Division, the top wild-card team in the Western Conference with a credible 10-7-3 record.

Most of what’s been good about the Ducks’ play this season came during an eye-catching eight-game stretch in which they were unbeatable. Some of what’s been bad about their play happened before and after their streak. After all, they were 0-3-3 before it and now 0-3-0 after it.

So, what are we to make of the Ducks after 20 games?

Well, for one thing, they’re a lot more fun to watch. They have ditched the plodding, grinding style of play that propelled them to the Western Conference finals in 2014-15 and 2016-17 in favor of a far more creative game that features more quick passes and fast skating through the center of the ice.

Mostly, though, they’re a work in progress.

WHAT’S WORKED

Actually, it’s more like who has worked well in the season’s first quarter for the Ducks, namely their top line of right wing Troy Terry, center Ryan Getzlaf and left wing Adam Henrique. Terry, who has 22 points, Getzlaf (19 points) and Henrique (15 points) are the Ducks’ top scorers.

Terry had a 16-game scoring streak (12 goals, 10 assists) that moved him among the league’s leaders. Getzlaf (one goal, 18 assists) has been rejuvenated in his 17th season in the NHL, all with the Ducks. Henrique (six goals, nine assists) has rebounded smartly after a disastrous 2020-21.

Rookies Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras have had their moments of delight and despair so far, but that’s to be expected. They’ve been handed the keys to the organization’s future and they’re making fewer and fewer missteps as time goes by, which cheers the coaches.

Kevin Shattenkirk has found a key role in the Ducks’ third defense pair, leading their defensemen with four goals and 14 points. Goaltender John Gibson, mostly freed from the sorts of onslaughts he endured last season, has been superb with a 9-5-2 record and a 2.53 goals-against average.

Perhaps most important of all, the Ducks’ special teams, which were nothing of the sort in recent seasons, have been excellent. Their power play is the fourth-best in the league with a 27.9 percent success rate, a true weapon so far this season. Their penalty kill is eighth at 85.7 percent.

WHAT’S WRONG

The resignation of longtime general manager Bob Murray because of alleged mistreatment of a team employee and his decision to seek treatment for alcohol abuse cast a dark cloud over the organization earlier this month. To their credit, the players didn’t let it impact their play.

It remains to be seen whether it has a long-lasting effect on the way the franchise does its business. Jeff Solomon was given the title of interim GM and said he would rely on assistant GMs Martin Madden and Dave Nonis, plus director of player personnel Todd Marchant.

On the ice, the Ducks could use more scoring depth and more consistent play from their veterans and youngsters alike. The Ducks’ margin for error in all areas is slim, something that was apparent in road losses Monday to the Nashville Predators and Wednesday to the Colorado Avalanche.

Injuries to Max Comtois (hand surgery) and Max Jones (torn pectoral tendon) have tested their depth at left wing. Henrique was shifted to left wing from center, but then suffered an upper-body injury and his status for Friday’s matinee against the Ottawa Senators was uncertain.

Comtois struggled mightily to duplicate the offensive firepower he displayed in leading the Ducks with 16 goals and 33 points in the pandemic-altered 2020-21 season, recording only one assist in 13 games before he underwent surgery to remove a small bone in his right hand last week.

Comtois will be out for another five weeks. Jones isn’t expected back until perhaps just before the All-Star and Winter Olympic breaks in early February. Henrique’s injury is not believed to be as serious as his teammates’ ailments and he’s expected back sooner than later.

BOTTOM LINE

What happens in the next 20 games will tell us a great deal more about the status of the Ducks’ rebuilding efforts and it also could determine their springtime destination, whether it’s their first playoff appearance since 2017-18 or a club-record fourth consecutive postseason absence.

Previous post Thanksgiving meals, fund-raisers, runs put emphasis on helping LA County’s homeless
Next post Long Beach turns out to trot before turkey time
Close
Mittens & Max - Keeping the Loving Memories of your pet