January 23, 2012

Quack Quack ...Ducks Headed North !!!

Usually Ducks migrate south in the winter, however, the Ducks of the NHL have been doing the exact opposite, as they have been heading North in the NHL standings. They haven’t been using  tricks like the “Flying-V” or “knuckle-pucks”, the Ducks are simply using the combination of an explosive attack, and timely goaltending. That combination has made the Ducks the hottest team in the NHL since the holidays.

Just over 2 weeks ago, the Ducks were in a state of complete disarray, they were in the basement of the NHL standings, and reports were rampant that the Ducks superstars were available for trade, after the owner said the only untouchables were those with NTC’s. Just when it seemed almost certain that either Getzlaf or Ryan were going to be shipped off before the deadline, this team completely changed directions. Since Jan 6th, the Ducks have played 9 games, and have collected 17 out of a possible 18 points by posting a record of 8-0-1! In those 9 games, they have outscored opponents 36-16, that means they have scored 4 goals a game and allowed less than 2 goals per game, so not only have the Ducks been winning, but they have been doing it in convincing fashion. Selanne has continued his great play this season, as he has been one of the only Ducks to not have a down year. Jason Blake has come back from injury and paid immediate dividends putting up 4 goals and 6 points in his last 5 games. But what has really been the key of this recent tear Anaheim has been on, is the re-emergence of  the Ryan/Getzlaf/Perry line as one of the NHL’s most lethal trio’s. In the last 9 games the three have combined for 15 goals, 13 assists and 28 points! Apparently trade rumors was exactly what the Ducks needed, because ever since the team’s stars found out they were expendable, they have done their very best to show management why they were considered the cornerstones of the franchise just a few months ago. When you combine the great play of the top line, with the incredible effort that they are getting from Hiller on the backend, there is no reason to believe that this run will not continue. Hiller has played in 8 of those 9 games, and has allowed only 11 goals over that span! The Ducks have been scoring plenty so they could have afforded some poor goaltending performances; however, Hiller has still managed to shut the door during those games. Last night’s 3-2 win over the Avalanche was perhaps Hiller’s best performance as he saved 43 out of the 45 shots he faced, and essentially stole 2 points for the Ducks, as they were outshot 45-18! Whenever you see a team that could steal 2 points with great goaltending, and also manage to score 4 goals a game in other contests, it is a very good sign of more wins to come. The Ducks are firing on all cylinders, and the recent dominance they have showed is reminding me a lot of the New Jersey Devils run last season. Although the Devils came up short despite being nearly unbeatable to close out the season, the Ducks might have a better chance because they started this run earlier. They currently sit 11 points behind the 8th place Avalanche, however, the Ducks also have 3 games in hand, so that ground may be easier to pick up than it seems. Whether they can get back into the playoff race remains to be seen, however, if the Ducks keep this up, or continue to play even close to the level they are playing now, they will definitely have a shot at the playoffs. And they would be the 1st team in NHL history under the current playoff system that would make the playoffs despite being 10+ points out at the All-Star break. One thing is for certain, the Ducks will be fun to watch for the rest of the year, and the way they are playing nobody would want to play these guys in the 1st round if they managed to pull off a miracle and squeeze into the playoffs.

Grant Robinson (@thesportsgrind)

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