As we post this tonight, the Ducks have edged out a 3-2 lead against Vancouver, going into the 3rd at Honda Center. Hopefully, they can turn around the fortunes of this recent home stand, which opened with losses to two fellow playoff contenders: Dallas and Minnesota. The Ducks seemed to outplay both teams in stretches, but they failed to capitalize on chances and surrendered quick scores.
Ducks fans like to blame close losses on the officiating, but Daniel, you and I are stat guys. So, give me your top three stats that best illustrate Anaheim's inability to finish, and tell me how we turn those around.
The first stat we need to look at is our penalty killing. We're taking just as many penalties as we always do, but our PK used to be so much better. This year, we kill about 80% of of our penalties. Last year we killed 85% and the year we won the cup we were closer to 86%. Of course it's not just the percentage, we've given up more power play goals this year than we did in our cup year, and we're only 5 away from our total last year with a dozen games left. We are going to take penalties, but considering we've given up 64 goals in 67 games, it's hard to win games when you're practically giving up a power play goal every game. We play hard and penalties will come with that, the only answer is to make sure we can keep teams from scoring on the opportunities they are definitely going to get.
Hopefully, improving our PK will help with the other problem we're having which is just overall defense/goaltending. Jiggy has not been himself as his 3.12 GAA can tell you, as well as his .901 SV%. Overall, our team GAA is an astronomical 2.91. While Hiller has been impressive at times and Giguere has obviously struggled, for the most part, we just have breakdowns in fundamental defense. These breakdowns have led to goals in bunches. We were second in the league in GAA last year, giving up only 184 goals. This year we've already given up 195. We built this team to have timely scoring and keep the puck out of the net. It's what we do. We are a puck control team and if we keep giving up these goal spurts we will not find ourselves playing post season hockey.
Finally, Getzlaf has to get hot. He's had one goal in the past 7 games, and only 2 assists in the past two weeks. Getzie is a prime contributor to our offense and everything goes better when he's hot. Not only are we scoring points, but that top line is great at generating chances by cycling the puck, controlling it down low and wearing down defenses. We need Getzlaf to get hot if we're going to stand any chance. Selanne is a veteran and he'll get his. But Getzlaf is so good at making the players around him better. He and Perry are a new Kariya-Selanne in the making. I think if Getzlaf gets going, our ability to keep teams pinned down in their own zone will grow exponentially and we'll have a better chance at creeping into the playoffs where he have a shot at making some great things happening.
The dreaded OS% measures a team's winning percentage when outshooting the opposition. Anaheim is tied for last in the league at an atrocious 37.5% with a record of 12-19-1. The 19 regulation losses are tied with Carolina for most in the league when the opponent was outshot.
The Ducks have undoubtedly lost to teams they've outplayed, but that accounts for maybe 5 of these 20 losses. The other 15 games were filled with wasted shots: drives from the point, tips in front and power moves into the crease, but never anyone there to claim the rebounds.
To turn this around, the Ducks need to crash more effectively. They need someone to cash-in the centering passes and the fat rebounds. Most of Dustin Penner's value came from these garbage goals. Todd Bertuzzi lacked the front-of-the-net awareness to replace him, and Chris Kunitz lacked the size. The Ducks need to find a way to get the same results with short passes and quick moves to the soft areas around the net that they once achieved with Penner's brute force.
Surrendered a G in The First 2:00 of Play For 3 Consecutive Games
In the Cup year, Anaheim was 14-15-5, .412, in games where the opponent scored first. This year, they're 7-25-3, .200, ranked 24th in the league.
They say championship teams win when the calls aren't going their way, when their goals are disallowed and when the opponent jumps out ahead with a lucky score. The Ducks have not been a championship team since they won the cup, and worse, they have created more adversity than they would have otherwise faced. This season has been plagued with defensive lapses and parades to the penalty box, and the team can never seem to muster up the energy to come back when playing from behind.
Carlyle has emphasized being "first" lately, and that's really the fix here. You can't teach a squad to handle adversity better; that's something they need to figure out on their own. As a coach, the best you can do is minimize the adversity your team faces. The Ducks need to be the first to win the faceoff, first to land the big hit, first to create a scoring chance and first to score.
Scott Niedermayer (-15) +/-
For the first time in 17 NHL seasons, Scott Niedermayer is on pace to finish as a double-digit minus player, despite scoring 44 points in 67 games. The Ducks captain has only posted two minus seasons prior to this one: last year, playing 48 games at -2, and 96-97, playing 81 games at -4.
The number is a function of Niedermayer's consistent 25-30 minutes of TOI, constantly shifting pairings and a Ducks team that is always playing from behind, forcing Niedermayer to pinch and crash for the entire 3rd period. By acquiring Wisniewski, a legitimate top-four defenseman, the front office had hoped to create solid pairings and alleviate the pressure on its top two blueliners.
It's true that Wisniewski and Niedermayer have some chemistry. However, both men have offensive instincts, and Wisniewski has shown an inability to cover (or to know when to cover) for the Ducks captain, surrendering a goal in each of the last two games. The only conceivable fix for these last dozen or so games is for Wisniewski to play a little more stay-at-home, and for Brookbank and Festerling to step up and buy Niedermayer some more time to rest.