When a puck finds the back of a net in a hockey game it’s common for the game announcer to comment one of two ways. Either a lament for the goalie having no chance on an expertly-crafted shot by the opposition or a critically harsh description of all the ways the goalie should have been able to stop the puck. Either way, game announcers most often fail to mention on certain nights that the defense might want a few of those goals back, as well.
The Anaheim Ducks‘ recent play in their own zone has caused room for a few critiques at the end of an otherwise near flawless season. In Anaheim’s past four games alone, the team has surrendered 15 goals and stands 2-2-0.
While it’s easy to blame the performance of a goalie (and in some circumstances correct to do so) when portions of a game go south, for Anaheim the responsibility of recent goals is not solely the fault of goalies Jonas Hiller and Frederik Anderson — there is a reason that this tandem is without much contention the NHL‘s best.
As the Ducks faced the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night for the teams’ third meeting in 10 days, Anaheim’s defensive weaknesses were shown once more in a 4-2 loss to a struggling, yet offensively lethal Oilers team. But before everyone jumps on the wagon to blame Hiller for another loss, in the famed words of hockey announcers everywhere, a few of Edmonton’s four goals last night were ones the Ducks’ defense most certainly want back.
Recent blue line struggles ignited with the injury of Sochi Olympian Cam Fowler, the Ducks’ young defenseman in the midst of the best NHL season of his still budding career. In addition to Fowler’s absence, many question Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau‘s decision to play often flimsy defenseman Luca Sbisa over breakout player Sami Vatanen. Sbisa has one goal and five assists with a minus two rating in 28 games played, while Vatanen has six goals with a plus-six rating in 47 games played.
The good news for the Ducks is that Fowler’s estimated return comes just in time for the playoffs to begin; he will be a significant and much-needed spark to Anaheim’s defense. The uneasy news for the team is regardless of how good Fowler may be (and he is that good) the kid can’t hold the Ducks’ blue line down all by himself.