Last night the Anaheim Ducks lost a 4-2 decision against the Minnesota Wild. Remarkably enough, this came as only the second loss on home ice in regulation time for the Ducks this season. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the first loss was just one week ago to the Winnipeg Jets. Unfortunately, with the way some have reacted to the news you would think the Wild just ousted the Ducks from a Stanley Cup Final. Yes, a loss is always hard to take, especially in a season sprinkled with so few of them, but I think any fan is still safe to see the Ducks’ race for the cup as a favorable one. Check the NHL standings this morning for any further validation needed.
Yet recent play has created reality of a prediction swirling around this team for weeks. Many thought the night would come where the Ducks could not erase poor early game habits with a slew of goals to close the 60 minutes with a win. Sure those types of games are more fun to watch, but it’s not a formula for continual success. Being labeled “the comeback kids” always comes with an expiration date.
Statistics released through Bleacher Report this week found the Ducks only controlling the puck an average of 45 percent in their last 10 games, ranking them 25th in the NHL. During the Stadium Series on Saturday night, Anaheim fans began cheering shots on goal as if they had actually beaten Jonathan Quick. Why? Because of their infrequency compared to what the Los Angeles Kings were producing on the opposite end of the ice. 13-4, 15-8, 20-7 – those are all first period shot on goal totals from recent games with the Ducks possessing the lesser of each number.
And then you have that blue line shaken up by the recent re-call of defensemen Luca Sbisa from a post-injury conditioning assignment that sent Sami Vatanen back to the Ducks’ minor league affiliate. Sbisa is clearly the more experienced player in the equation, but the sloppy team chemistry sans Vatanen last night left goalie Jonas Hiller practically standing on his head to keep the game playable. Even the best goalie can only stop so many shots before a few get through.
But take these points in stride mighty Ducks fans; now is not the time to abort the team’s mission on the season of a little unfinished business. And now is certainly not the time to place bets on any sort of early playoff exit. In the entire context of the past few months, finding even these flaws in Anaheim’s well generated system is difficult. And the great thing about hockey is tomorrow is always a new game.