The season opener for the Ducks looked bleak. Facing the favorites to win the pacific division in game one of the season, the San Jose Sharks were coming into a promising year considering the fact that their core was still stable, their goaltending was going to be above average as always, and the blue line had just been injected with a Norris Trophy winner in Erik Karlsson. Regardless, the Ducks scored very early due to a breakaway goal coming off the stick of rookie Max Comtois. The first goal of his career, the rookies looked very good in that game as the Ducks went on to take the game 5-2.
Since then, the Ducks got some other key victories but as of late they have come crashing down to earth and it seems like they are experiencing a reality check of sorts.
Regardless of their success very early on in this still young season, the Ducks have some big problems to solve this year if they want to be a playoff team. Their defense seems lackluster and just flat out lost at some points. The forwards, who have been short in firepower due to various injuries, have struggled getting just 25 shots to the net on a regular basis. Randy Carlyle, although there is more conjecture in this issue, doesn’t seem to have a solid plan in mind to right the ship. The Ducks Corsi rating and shot differential is atrocious. And the only thing keeping this team from completely collapsing into an abyss of subpar play is John Gibson who without a doubt will be a Vezina candidate for the 2018-19 season.
Let’s start from the beginning. The defense hasn’t been playing well at all which is surprising considering the skill and somewhat depth of the Ducks defensive corps. The Ducks defense is a combined even when it comes to plus minus. In addition to this, the Ducks have allowed more shots from the slot than any other team in the NHL at the moment. Gibson is a big reason why the defense is even instead of a minus ten or even worse.
The forward group for the Ducks is struggling to get any kind of offensive zone time as the Ducks can’t seem to get the puck to that end of the ice let alone keeping it down there consistently. Struggling to even get enough shots on goal to even keep up with the game, the forwards, with the exception of Jakob Silfverberg who was producing points like mad until he suffered a hand injury in St. Louis, haven’t been producing as they should. The Ducks have tallied less shots than their opponent in every game so far this season except for one where they tallied the same amount of shots. The shot difference for the Ducks right now on the season is a whopping -168 which puts them in dead last in the NHL by a very long shot.
Randy Carlyle seems to be going with the same old clichés as usual. Obviously, Carlyle, the rest of the coaching staff, the managers, and of course the players aren’t happy with the team’s performance as of late. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf even going as far as calling their performance “embarrassing”.
However, head coach Randy Carlyle doesn’t seem to have a specific plan to fix any of this and Ducks fans have seen this problem in the past. Taking that even further, this physical, “defense first” mentality has been one of the cornerstones of Carlyle’s coaching career and with the speed of most players in today’s NHL, maybe that style just doesn’t work any longer. This could be a possibility especially considering the shot counts and the lack of offense from the Ducks. Regardless, this reality check is not all due to Carlyle by any means. His coaching style may contribute to the problems but it is not the sole contribution.
Finally, John Gibson is the only thing keeping this team from completely falling apart. Wins would be scarcer and losses would be a lot worse if it weren’t for Gibson’s sometimes miraculous play in net. However, the scary truth remains that Gibson can’t win games by himself and he can’t always be there to completely steal a win. The problems are going to have to be at least somewhat solved in order for Gibson to fully flourish.
More success will come with a Ducks team that is healthy. As of the last couple seasons that seems to be a rarity but if it can happen, the Ducks will be a much better team. Some positives include Patrick Eaves and Ondrej Kase being close to hitting the ice once again. Jakob Silfverberg who had a very productive first few games of the season could be due back sooner rather than later. The Ducks rookies have shown that they can compete and contribute at the NHL level. And finally, it is best that the Ducks have these problems now rather than experiencing them late in the season when playoff races are tighter and there isn’t as much time to play catch up.
The Ducks are experiencing a harsh reality right now but it doesn’t seem like this could be their reality for too long. Regardless, it is obvious that something has to change in order for this team to experience the success it did in the first five games of the season. Essentially, the question is whether or not these current results are just who the Ducks are as a team or if this is just a dry spell that will eventually be worked out and forgotten.