Very quietly, the “underdog” Ducks are creeping back toward relevancy.
The Anaheim Ducks are a very unique type of underdog.
Before the the 2015-‘16 season started, the Ducks were the consensus pick to represent the West in the Stanley Cup. However, through the first few weeks of the season, the Ducks were the most disappointing team in the league. Due to their historically anemic offense, they got off to a dreadful 1-7-2 start.
Left for dead by the rest of the NHL, the Ducks have quietly fought their way back into the playoff picture over the last few months. They have gone 24-11-2 since their terrible start while winning their last six games in a row.
As I mentioned last Halloween, counting out the Ducks was a mistake; it was only a matter of time before they turned things around.
The signs of a likely turnaround were apparent even during Anaheim’s rough stretch. Although they only won one of their first ten games, their possession numbers were not nearly as terrible as their record reflected. They were 11th in the league in CF% at 51.1 percent, so they were generating a fair number of shots and scoring opportunities.
What really killed the Ducks was their inability to put the puck in the net. Their offense was by far the worst in the league, mainly due to their incredibly low shooting percentage. Through 10 games, the Ducks’ shooting percentage was a league-worst 2.99 percent, which wasn’t even close to 29th-ranked Buffalo’s 3.64 percent. They were getting plenty of shots on net, but none of them went in.
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Eventually, the Ducks had to start getting the bounces. And, finally, they started to come.
Even though the Ducks are still last in the league in goals per game (2.2), their recent offensive performance has been very encouraging.
Anaheim’s possession numbers have only gotten better as the season has progressed. They are now third in the league in both CF% (53.5 percent) and FF% (53.8 percent). They are also beginning to convert on their high number of opportunities. Their shooting percentage has risen from 2.99 percent to 5.61 percent. While this number is still last in the league, it is a marked improvement from earlier in the season.
During their current six-game winning streak, the Ducks have scored a combined 25 goals. In fact, Anaheim has scored at least three goals in each of their past 10 wins. Corey Perry, who only scored two goals in his first 15 games, now leads the team with 21 on the season. While Ryan Getzlaf has struggled putting the puck in the net, his 30 assists are good for 13th in the entire league.
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Another reason for the Ducks’ current success has been their defensive play, which has been consistent all year, even when they couldn’t buy a goal. They are fifth in the league in goals against, mostly thanks to the superb goaltending of John Gibson.
Gibson exemplifies the Ducks’ underdog status this season. He and Frederik Andersen have split Anaheim’s games in net this year, but Gibson has been the significantly better part of the goaltending tandem. He owns a save percentage of .923 percent as well as a league-best goals against average of 1.92. Having only played 26 career regular season games coming into the season, Gibson has come out of nowhere to keep the Ducks afloat in the midst of their offensive struggles. His stellar play also earned him a well-deserved spot in the All-Star game.
Additionally, the Ducks’ penalty kill has been sensational. They are ranked first in the league, having killed 89.1 percent of their penalties. Along with Gibson, this facet of their game has been consistent throughout the season, buoying their play when goals were very hard to come by.
When the Ducks were floundering at the bottom of the league at 1-7-2, many thought they were dead in the water. By quietly improving their performance with a re-energized offense and steady defense, this former-favorite-turned-underdog is ready to show the league that they are not done yet.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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