After a 2-0 shutout loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, the Anaheim Ducks should start looking for a few shake ups in play to fight through a tough upcoming schedule, not because losing is suddenly an end-all and be-all, but because a team that has been running on the type of chemistry the Ducks created during the first half of the NHL season should not be losing the games they are losing. Period.
The Ducks are not alone in the mid-season lull. Other powerhouse teams throughout the NHL currently stand in the middle of it, as well. The 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings can’t seem to score a goal to save their lives, the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks can’t gain an overtime win and a team that is captained by the man who could arguably be called the greatest hockey player of all time, the Pittsburgh Penguins, is losing blowout games to teams at the bottom of the standings.
But with the Olympic break coming this week, now is Anaheim’s time to look no further than their previously solid blue line for the beginning of those necessary changes.
The return of defenseman Luca Sbisa to the lineup last Tuesday saw Anaheim’s defense go from stellar to sloppy in a mere 60 minutes, with a full recovery yet to be seen. Although the easy thing to do is to blame Sbisa for the shortage of ice coverage, the team as a whole needs to figure out a way to succeed again with new people in and out of the lineup each night.
They will have another chance to figure it out this week as news came this morning that defenseman Mark Fistric will not play tomorrow against the Columbus Blue Jackets due to an injury sustained on Saturday night. Rumor is lights-out defenseman Sami Vatanen is headed back to Anaheim after playing a stint for the Ducks’ minor league team in Norfolk. It’s news that already has fangirls of the black and orange swirling, but even more importantly it’s news that might be the key to what Anaheim’s game has been missing.
After weathering injury upon injury during the first half of the season, the question is not if the Ducks can adjust. The question is will they adjust in time? And will they adjust with enough depth to run strong in the playoffs? I’d like to think they will, and even better, they will come out on top in spite of it all.