View Original Notice ? Ducks getting much-needed production from their defensemen
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kevin Shattenkirk has three goals and three assists in six games to start the 2021-22 season, the Ducks’ co-leader with six points. Cam Fowler has one goal and three assists. Jamie Drysdale has one goal and two assists. Hampus Lindholm has two assists. Josh Mahura has one assist.
None of the Ducks defensemen are going to make anyone forget Bobby Orr, but their production through the first six games is something new from a group that struggled to contribute goals and assists last season. There’s been a demand for more, and they have responded.
“We need it from everyone,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “We didn’t get a lot from our back end last season.”
Eakins wouldn’t use the words “pleased” or “satisfied” with the production of the Ducks’ defense so far. He settled on the word “content.” Shattenkirk was tied for second in the NHL among defensemen with six points, one point behind the Kings’ Drew Doughty going into Saturday.
Last season, Fowler led the Ducks’ defense corps with five goals and 18 assists in 56 games. Shattenkirk had two goals and 13 assists in 55 games. Drysdale had three goals and five assists in 24 games. The Ducks were the league’s lowest-scoring team in 2020-21, with only 126 goals.
So far in 2021-22, the Ducks’ defensemen have been given more freedom to join the rush than in past seasons. Odd-man rushes in the NHL used to mean a three-on-two advantage for the attackers, but it’s more like to be a four-on-three nowadays, with a defenseman joining three forwards.
At the same time, the offensive opportunism of the Ducks’ defenseman hasn’t translated into a flurry of counterattacks from opposing teams. The Ducks had a manageable minus-2 goal differential going into Saturday’s game against the Wild, having scored 14 and given up 16.
Last season, the Ducks’ goal differential was minus-53, the second-highest in the NHL. Only the Buffalo Sabres were worse at minus-61.
“As defensemen, when we know our forwards are going to make a certain play with the puck, it allows us to feel confident to jump into the rush,” Shattenkirk said of the Ducks’ new game plan. “We’ve done a good job of taking care of pucks and making the right plays. All of that ties into it.
“We certainly know last year we didn’t contribute the way we should have on the back end, especially with the players we have. It’s something that’s been stressed. It’s part of the game now that’s necessary.”
Ryan Getzlaf had two assists in the Ducks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, moving within two points of Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne’s franchise record of 988. In addition, the 1,000-point mark is also in reach for Getzlaf, who has four assists this season.
Getzlaf assisted on goals by Troy Terry in the first period and Rickard Rakell in the second. Of his 986 career points over 17 seasons – all with the Ducks – 707 have come via assists. His total of 381 primary assists are the fourth-most in the NHL since 2007-08.