NHL PLAYOFFS 2013: Anaheim Ducks – against all odds.

Image courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press.

Image courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press.

As we get closer to the playoffs, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team’s roster as they clinch a spot in the postseason. Next, the Anaheim Ducks.

SEASON LOWDOWN

Image courtesy of ducks.nhl.com.

Image courtesy of ducks.nhl.com.

 The Ducks overhauled their roster after a disappointing 2011/12 season that saw them miss the playoffs, opting not to re-sign long-time team enforcer George Parros, bottom pairing-defender Sheldon Brookbank and disappointing back-up Dan Ellis, and trading star defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky to the NY Islanders for a 2nd round pick.  The Ducks then went on to make several extremely smart signings, including offensive defenceman Sheldon Souray, defensive stalwart Bryan Allen, and top defensive forward Daniel Winnik.  These signings would serve to strengthen immeasurably the Ducks’ depth, which was their downfall the year before.

After the disappointment of the year before, no-one expected the Ducks to be as good as they were this year.  They went 3-1-1 in January, and then went on a 10-2-0 tear through February.  They continued their strong form into March, not dropping a game in regulation until March 22nd, when they went on a 4 game losing streak.  Finishing March 9-4-4, they are currently 4-4-1 in April, so they are slowing down some, and will be looking for a strong finish to regain some confidence as they enter the playoffs.

Viktor Fasth makes a save.  Image courtesy of bigstory.ap.org.

Viktor Fasth makes a save. Image courtesy of bigstory.ap.org.

The season’s main individual highlight involved rookie* goalie Viktor Fasth, a 30 year old from Sweden who’d never played in North America previously, starting his NHL career by going 8-0-0 and being a huge part of the Ducks’ best start since the 2006/07 season.

As a sidenote: the Ducks have been a very interesting team to follow this year.  They have an incredible amount of talent, particularly their top 6 forwards.  Their bottom 6 and their defence is also considerably improved over previous years, whilst both Hiller and Fasth have given outstanding goaltending.

However, the advanced statistics hate this team, despite the number of genuine good NHLers present.  All the underlying numbers suggest the team has been playing in incredibly good luck all season, scoring a tonne of goals when their possession numbers (shots differential) suggests they shouldn’t be winning nearly as much as they should. Everything pointed to a dramatic regression by the team, and although they have slowed a bit, the massive drop-off hasn’t really happened. They could just be one of those teams that buck the trend, the exception to the rule – they could return to being a bad team next year, or with the quality of their players they have they could have a good season with good underlying numbers.  Weird.

*though not eligible as a rookie under Calder Trophy rules due to his age.

2012/13 Season Team Stats (to date):

44 Games – 27 Wins – 11 Losses – 6 OT Losses – 60 Points

Goals For = 128

Goals Against = 111

Goal Differential = +17

Home Record = 16-6-1

Away Record = 11-5-5

CURRENT LINEUP

Forwards:

BOBBY RYAN – RYAN GETZLAF – COREY PERRY

EMERSON ETEM – ANDREW COGLIANO – TEEMU SELANNE

DANIEL WINNIK – SAKU KOIVU – RADEK DVORAK

MATT BELESKEY – DAVID STECKEL – KYLE PALMIERI

Defence:

SHELDON SOURAY – FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN

BRYAN ALLEN – SAMI VATANEN

TONI LYDMAN – BEN LOVEJOY

Goal:

JONAS HILLER

VIKTOR FASTH

EXTRA: BRAD STAUBITZ, MATTHEW LOMBARDI, JORDAN HENDRY

INJURED: LUCA SBISA, CAM FOWLER, NICK BONINO

TOP SCORERS

ducks top scorers 2013

EVALUATION

Ducks' captain Ryan Getzlaf.  Image courtesy of The Score.

Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf. Image courtesy of The Score.

The team’s top trio of forwards – Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan – are one of the top lines in the league in terms of both ability and past performance.  This year, their performance appears to have been somewhat uneven.  Getzlaf is the only one who is performing, in terms of boxcar stats, at a level in-line with his previous output; in fact, he’s enjoying a somewhat resurgent year after a poor 2011/12.  He leads the team in points and is joint top in goals with Perry, though part of that success can be attributed to a high shooting percentage.  He is taking on middling competition and blowing it out of the water.  Whilst you’d prefer if he was taking on tougher competition, the team’s depth allows him to dominate lesser players.  He’s doing everything he’s asked to basically, and doing it well.

Perry meanwhile, is playing well, but is not quite at previously established levels.  He’s just under a 70-point pace, and just under a 30-goal pace, so whilst still solid, it’s slightly underwhelming for a player of his ability.  He’s still providing his other talents however: physical, two-way, agitating play and an ability to dominate middling competition, much like Getzlaf.

The third wheel is Bobby Ryan.  Long the subject of trade speculation and rumours of discontent, Ryan has disappointed the most of almost any player on the team this year.  On pace for under 20 goals and just over 50 points, way off the pace previously expected from one of the most consistent goal scorers in the league.  He’s still one of the top scorers on a team that is scoring by committee however, and the lower goal-count can be attributed at least in part to bad luck with his shooting percentage being way below his career average.  He should rebound, if not this year then next – if he stays a part of the team, of course.

Andrew Cogliano celebrates scoring a goal.  Image courtesy of townhall.com.

Andrew Cogliano celebrates scoring a goal. Image courtesy of townhall.com.

Andrew Cogliano is enjoying a fantastic season, the first time he’s been on pace for 40+ points since his rookie year and also the first time he’s ever been on pace for 20 goals.  This is most definitely an outlier season for him though, as he is shooting at an insane 17.9% rate so far, a rate this is almost certainly unsustainable.  Still he’s proven to be a consistent double digits goal scorer no matter how high or low his shooting percentage is, and as such is a valuable secondary scorer with little powerplay time.  He is still an awful face-off man for a center, which isn’t great, but he does provide quality two-way play and phenomenal speed, handy on the forecheck.

Emerson Etem has had a rough start to his pro career.  He scored 13 goals in 45 games in the AHL, not a bad amount for a rookie pro, but only had 3 assists – a very odd ratio, although he’s always been more of a goalscorer.  He’s played 35 NHL games for the Ducks since the end of the lockout, and only has 3 goals and 9 points to show for it.  Whilst it wasn’t expected for him to be a star right away, I think more was hoped for than this.  He’s been awful defensively aswell, taking on by far the easiest competition on the team with over 55% offensive zonestarts but still gets outshot handily.  Nonetheless, with his size, speed and skill he remains a great prospect, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t turn out.

Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, the ageless wonders, are still giving the team great secondary scoring and defensive play, particularly Koivu who is taking on extremely tough competition with primarily defensive zonestarts and still coming out ahead on shot differential.  Daniel Winnik has been a great pickup for the team, and whilst his early season scoring flurry predictably didn’t last, he’s still been a fantastic defensive forward for them – if the Selke Trophy was truly about defensive ability, Winnik would be in serious contention.  Palmieri, Beleskey, Bonino have all chipped in on scoring whilst not being too much of a liability defensively.  David Steckel has been a pretty decent fourth line center for the team, and late season pickup Radek Dvorak has given his usual sound two-way ability.

Francois Beauchemin looks to take a slap shot.  Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

Francois Beauchemin looks to take a slap shot. Image courtesy of zimbio.com.

On defence, there’s no way I can start with anyone else but Francois Beauchemin.  He would probably be my pick for the Norris Trophy, that’s how good his play has been this year.  He’s taking on the toughest competition on the team, with over 50% of his zonestarts being in the defensive zone, and still dominating in terms of shot differential.  He plays the most amounts of minutes per game, more than 2 and a half minutes more than the next closest (Souray).  He’s also putting up points at the second best rate of his career, on pace for 41 in a full season.  In other words, he’s doing everything a defenceman can be asked to do, and doing it an incredibly high level, elite in fact.  He’s always been an underrated defenceman, but it is difficult to see whether this is him finally breaking out at age 32, or if it is just a random spike in performance.  His PDO of 1063 does suggest he’s playing in good luck, but not outrageously so.  Either way, he’s been a godsend for this team, and deserves every compliment sent his way.

Souray has also been very good for this team, and whilst not at his old level of offence – last seen with the Oilers in 2008/09 – still provides sound two-way play, leadership and a physical presence, something this team has needed on the backend ever since Pronger left (though obviously he’s not at Pronger’s level).  Bryan Allen was an astute signing, providing a solid veteran defensive presence.  Toni Lydman is still providing good defensive play, but has dropped off the map offensively having not scored a goal since 2010/11.  Lovejoy has also been pretty decent for the team defensively since being  picked up from Pittsburgh.  The team really could use Sbisa and Fowler back in the lineup however.  Sbisa has had a rough year both on offence and defence, but he is still probably better than the likes of Vatanen and Lovejoy.  Fowler is also not having a good year at either end of the ice when healthy, but given how good he was both of his first two years, I’d expect this to simply be an off year not helped by injuries.  Fowler in particular has a heck of a career in front of him.

Jonas Hiller minds the net. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

Jonas Hiller minds the net. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

In goal, the aforementioned Fasth has been a revelation, sporting a .921 SV% and 2.20 GAA in his first NHL season.  Hiller has been mediocre, with a 2.48 GAA and .908 SV%, but he’s been great so far in his NHL career so I wouldn’t bet on that lasting.  They’re as good a tandem in the league, and if there’s a weakness with this team it’s not the goaltending.

STAR PLAYOFF PERFORMER

Beauchemin looks focused during the pre-game skate.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

Beauchemin looks focused during the pre-game skate. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org.

Despite the heroics by Viktor Fasth at times this year, the re-emergence of Getzlaf and the great years being enjoyed by Cogliano and Souray, I think that Francois Beauchemin will be the motor that drives this team in the playoffs.  You may have noticed that in many of these playoff previews I’m picking defenceman as the Playoff Star Performers, and that’s simply because if a team possesses a top defenceman, there’s really no limit on what said team can do.  Beauchemin has been absolutely phenomenal this year, and I see no reason for that to stop in the postseason.  Look for him to log monster minutes in all disciplines and excel.

PREDICTION

Image courtesy of the Globe & Mail.

Image courtesy of the Globe & Mail.

This all depends on how long the Duck’s top players play.  If they continue to struggle as they have in April, then they won’t get out of the first round.  If they play like they have the rest of the year then they could almost certainly make it to the second round, but I don’t see them making it any further than that, particularly if they run into a heavier team with better possession ability like St Louis or LA.

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4 comments

  • I think that this is the best summary of the Ducks that I’ve seen all year and I’ve read through my fair share, so thanks for this quality post. Watching so many games this year, I have felt like we were being completely dominated and that we’ve just managed to pull out a vital goal, or even sometimes an important block by the likes of Beauchemin (Who as you rightly say, has been a unchained monster in defence this season) and it’s enough to spark the team towards stealing the win. The only point I would make is that if you’d have told me at the end of last season, that we’d be where we are in the standings, I would have thought you were crazy. The difference in team spirit is astonishing to see and much of the complacency from the offensive stars in the team has disappeared. I think that sometimes the awful stats are just a reflection of our style under Bruce Boudreau, and some of the changes he has made to how we approach aspects such as the penalty kill, (Which involves shutting down the centre of our zone and leaving the outside to force long range efforts at goal) were far more effective earlier in the season than they have been more recently. What worries me most about Boudreau is his remarkable ability to take a team through the regular season on fire, before they fade down the stretch and then capitulate in the playoffs. Sound familiar? But because this comment has revealed so much of my current pessimism, I shall end on a lighter more rebellious note, which is directed at every team who make the playoffs…’We will quack you!’

    • Thanks Sam, much appreciated. The Ducks are a really interesting team to follow, like I said above, because their overall talent level suggests they should have good underlying numbers and be winning, but instead they have bad underlying numbers and are winning anyway! Not a bad spot to be in, but I will be very interested to see what they do this summer – Selanne, Koivu, Dvorak, Lombardi, Steckel, Lydman and Lovejoy are all UFAs – and how they perform next year.

      Boudreau is an odd-ball that’s for sure, with a distinct lack of playoff success in the NHL, but he’s won championships in the ECHL and the AHL, and made the finals in the old IHL, so he’s had success everywhere else but in the big leagues; with the Caps, the opponents that ousted them were a Conference Finalist in ’08 (Philly), the Stanley Cup winner in ’09 (Penguins), a team that got unbelievable goaltending at the right time in ’10 (Montreal), and another team-that-got-hot Conference Finalist in ’11 (Lightning), so it’s not like they lost to bad teams, but on the other hand 4 years of failing to get past round 2 with a talent laden roster like they had, something had to give and I can see why he was let go. San Jose at least manages to get to the Conference Finals with some regularity. I think the roster in Anaheim is more balanced than he had in Washington, and his top stars less one-dimensional, so who knows, he may be able to do more with them.

      As for the here and now, did you watch the game last night? Thoughts? I didn’t see it but watching the highlights and reading the reports it sounded like the Oilers’ second period was their undoing, as usual, and beyond Hall, Yakupov and Lander we didn’t really get anything going. Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan were apparently particularly dominating, from what I read. Nice to see Fowler get a goal though, always rooting for that kid – I’ll never forget the forlorn look on his face as he slipped ever further down in the draft.

      And so the Oilers are once again eliminated from playoff contention, and have even slipped below the lowly Flames. Still, hopefully we can play for some pride in tonight’s game!

  • Samuel Skelding

    In terms of the approach to next season, I am concerned about the amount of UFA’s who are regulars on the roster, especially considering how much of the cap is tied up in Perry and Getzlaf alone, post their contract extensions. I fear that Bobby Ryan will not be a member of the Ducks next season, although I admire him as a player, I think extending his contract would be detrimental to the balance of the line-up and acquiring the depth that is necessary for a competitive NHL season.

    I did the watch the game and you seem to have gathered most of the keys from the highlights and media. The second period was the game in a nutshell, and a combination of self-destruction from the Oilers and Anaheim simplifying their style swung the flow in their direction. Tracking in their defensive zone from the Edmonton forwards was horrendous at times, allowing far too much time to the likes of Cogliano and Bonino to pick out their teammates with minimal pressure. But from the bad to the good, Taylor Hall was outstanding, he looked dangerous throughout the game and perhaps my only criticism would be that at times, he wanted to literally carry the team on his shoulders and do absolutely everything on his own, though I suppose that could be either a supreme confidence in his abilities or a lack of confidence in the players around him? Yakupov was also excellent, you may have seen some of his dazzling stick work in the highlights. He danced around the Anaheim defence throughout the first period in particular. I can’t wait to see how he progresses next season, especially if he gets the right pieces around him which allow him to flourish.

    Tonight is following in a similar vein too, the ducks lead 2-0 after the first period. Silly penalties from Horcoff quickly punished by Getzlaf. Not to mention that pesky Dvorak again. On a plus note, I think that with the vastly different direction our teams appear to be heading with regard to youth, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of wins over Anaheim to celebrate in the future, and I promise I’ll try to be graceful in defeat.

    What are your thoughts on those who say that a shortened season should never be ranked as a true NHL season and that the Stanley Cup winner should not be lauded in the same vein as a triumph after a punishing full-length regular campaign?

  • Pingback: NHL 2013 PLAYOFFS: ROUND 1 – ANAHEIM vs DETROIT | Ice Nation UK

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