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Ducks Final 11 Game Review?
By Thomas Harrington
With the postponement of the NHL regular season and no clear date of when the season will resume, I’ll be combining the usual 10 game review (though in this case, it will be 11 games) with the March review.
Also, given how uncertain everything is, in both the NHL and the world, and how poorly the season has gone for the Ducks, I’ll only be focusing on the positives of the last 11 games and the month of March, and just leave off the negatives.
Over the last 11 games, the Ducks had a record of 5-4-2 and picked up 12 points. In March, Anaheim played a total of seven games and had a record of 3-3-1, good for seven points. The Ducks still have some kinks to work out in their system, but since the trade deadline, Anaheim has been playing some of its best hockey this season, even though the defense has been ravaged by injuries.
Anaheim’s best game in March was their 2-1 win over Toronto. In a game where the Ducks were without their top four defensemen, they kept Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner off of the scoresheet. Combined, those three players have over 200 points this season. Anaheim’s top five scorers don’t even have 200 points; they have a total of 195. Carter Rowney got the goal scoring started early in this one, and Adam Henrique made it 2-0 midway through the third period. Unfortunately, John Gibson did leave the game with an injury. Ryan Miller took over and only allowed one goal, and the Ducks skated off with the win.
The Ducks’ best forward over the last 11 games was Nicolas Deslauriers. He’s never been a big-time goal scorer, but he scored the fastest hat trick to start a Ducks game against Ottawa. It took just 11:49 for Deslauriers to complete the first hat trick of his career. In a season without a ton of feel-good moments for the Ducks, this was easily one of the best. Besides the hat trick, he finished the last 11 games with four goals, good for second on the team, while his five points were tied for third. He also had a number of dangerous chances, and of course, he dropped the gloves multiple times. He’s quickly become a fan favorite this season, and his hat trick really cemented that status for him.
I’m going to cheat a little and not name one player as Anaheim’s best defenseman over the last 11 games. Instead, I’m going to name the entire defensive core as the best defenseman on the team.
That may seem odd, especially when there were nights when the Ducks were blown out, like in the 6-2 loss to Chicago. However, Anaheim’s top four of Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, and Erik Gudbranson played a combined 12 games, with Fowler and Gudbranson missing all 11 and Lindholm only playing in three. With those three missing almost the entire stretch, and Manson missing a couple of games as well, the rest of the defense has really stepped up. Jacob Larsson and Michael Del Zotto were the only two players to play in all 11 games.
Larsson has been up and down all season, and really struggled against Chicago, but he’s also had some great games and has looked more comfortable as the season has gone along. Del Zotto led the defense with four assists and four points. Brendan Guhle played in seven games and scored two goals and three points.
Newcomers Christian Djoos and Matt Irwin have stepped into a difficult situation and played well overall. Djoos scored his first goal and has three points, while Irwin has an assist so far. Finally, Jani Hakanpaa was recalled from San Diego and made his NHL debut against Colorado at age 27, and scored his first career goal against St. Louis. Along with Deslauriers’ hat trick, Hakanpaa’s goal was one of the best moments of the season. It’s not a highly experienced group, but every player really stepped up their game with so many of Anaheim’s top defensemen out.
Inbetween The Pipes
In net, Gibson played in three games and had a record of 1-2. He was pulled twice, including in the game he won. Miller played in five games and started three of them. He had a record of 2-0-1.
With Gibson out and the Ducks playing in back-to-back games, Anthony Stolarz was recalled from San Diego and made his Anaheim debut against St. Louis. He lost but made a number of great saves in the game. If Miller decides to retire after this season, Stolarz could be an option to be Anaheim’s backup next season, and this game was a strong audition from him. Stolarz has been reassigned to San Diego.
Sherwood Placed On Waivers
For Anaheim’s rookie and young forwards, Sam Steel, Kiefer Sherwood, and Max Jones played in 10 games, while Troy Terry played in two. Terry has been returned to the Gulls and will be there for the rest of the season, but he did record an assist. Steel scored a goal and had two points, while both Sherwood and Jones each picked up an assist. The Ducks placed Sherwood on waivers today. Bob Murray had planned to send him down to San Diego for a Calder Cup run. He discussed that and other future moves at the recent Hockey Hot Stove. The timing appears to be strange, but maybe Murray did it now since there is a less likelihood of someone claiming him with all the attention on COVID-19 and what the NHL will do with the rest of the season.
A few other things that stood out to me over the last 11 games. Henrique continued his strong season, leading the team with five goals and 10 points, while his five assists were second. Rickard Rakell led the team with six assists, and his eight points were second. Newcomers Danton Heinen and Sonny Milano have been playing well for the Ducks, and so far, people are not missing the play of Nick Ritchie and Devin Shore. Jakob Silfverberg, Milano, and Rowney were the players who had five points and tied with Deslauriers for third on the team in scoring.
Finally, only three players who played in at least one game in the last 11 failed to record a point. Two of them, Derek Grant and Korbinian Holzer, are no longer with the team and played a combined three games. The other is Lindholm, and he only played in three games. So the offense has been nice and spread out over the last 11 games, something that we’ve been hoping to see through much of the season.
With the season on pause, the Ducks were at least able to give fans some fun games leading up to this unexpected break. If the season does resume, hopefully, Anaheim can continue playing at a high level. However, if the worst-case scenario does happen and Anaheim’s season is already over, then at least the last few games were a lot of fun to watch.
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March 15th, 2020