It’s been approximately six weeks since the NHL regular season started. Usually by this point in the season, a team’s identity has been formed and fans can approximate how their team will fare throughout the season. However, so far this year, the Anaheim Ducks have only been consistent in one aspect: their inconsistencies.
After an opening game loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Ducks rebounded by winning their next four straight. They then lost their next three, won a game, and went on to lose six straight.
On Friday night, they pulled out a 4-3 nail-biter of a victory over the Vancouver Canucks, with all four of the Ducks’ goals coming in the second period and all three of Canucks’ goals coming in the third. The Ducks were outshot 22-2 in that third period, and in a game that they could have won easily, they just barely squeaked by.
On a team with the talents of players like Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu, one might wonder as to how this team could have a record of 6-7-3 and be second to last in the entire Western conference.
“On paper you look at this team and we should be doing a lot better than we are, but paper only says so much,” defenseman Cam Fowler commented. “It’s up to us right now to rally around each other and really get behind each other.”
Could it possibly be blamed on injuries?
It’s true that the Ducks roster has been depleted by injuries so far this season. Jason Blake’s wrist was accidentally sliced by the skate of Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks on October 14th and is not expected to be back on the ice until the new calendar year. About a week ago it was announced that enforcer George Parros would out for about four weeks after needing Lasik surgery on his left eye to repair a torn retina. And after the game on Friday, it was announced that defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky would be missing about four weeks due to a broken finger.
However, the Ducks troubles started long before two of these injuries and any sports fan knows that the fate of a team does not rest on the shoulders of a single player. After all, most people recognize by this point that the Indianapolis Colts would still be having some problems, even with a healthy Peyton Manning.
So no, the Ducks issues, as of late, are not due to injuries and it’s not for lack of talent either.
Ducks players and coaches alike recognize that something has been amiss so far this season, so much so that even held a meeting on Thursday to discuss what could possibly be done to correct this imbalance. However, it appears as though it just hasn’t clicked yet.
“It’s a frustrating thing,” Getzlaf mentioned. “It’s hard to put our finger on, but we’re not getting prepared for the game, we’re not getting up for the game. It’s the National Hockey League and there’s no excuse. We need to be ready to play and excited to play at the start of the hockey game.”
Would Sunday night be the night that the Ducks came ready to play? And win?
On Sunday evening the Ducks faced off against the Minnesota Wild, who got beaten 5-2 by the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night and came out against the Ducks with a vengeance, netting three goals in the first period.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle decided to pull goaltender Jonas Hiller at the start of the second and replaced him with Dan Ellis.
Early in the second period, Fowler scored his first goal of his sophomore season, making it 3-1 Wild. The Ducks had countless of opportunities throughout the remainder of the period including two shots off the pipes from Selanne and a no-goal called due to penalties.
The third period was also riddled with goal-scoring opportunities for the Ducks, with more pipe deflections and near misses. Unfortunately, the bounces were just not in favor of the Ducks.
Ryan stated, “We were in front of the net and had some chances to bury them. They’re not going in. You try to simplify and try to take pucks from the goal line and just jam them and that’s not working either. Something’s got to give.”
However, with just forty-nine seconds remaining, Fowler scored his second goal of the night, and had his first multi-goal game. Unfortunately it was not enough, and the Ducks fell 3-2 to the Wild.
Carlyle said, “Our execution and our ability to get in the hockey game was way off base.”
Up next for the Ducks is a back-to-back doubleheader against the Kings: Wednesday in Los Angeles and Thursday in Anaheim.
One thing is certain. The Ducks could be in for a long and grueling season if they can’t find the right formula to make them click.