Ducks gaining confidence, finally
Anaheim, the Pacific Division's worst team, has suddenly become its hottest squad.
They are 5-0-1 in their last six, turning a woeful 10-22-6 record into a 16-22-7 mark.
“We wanted to start climbing up, find some hot streak right now and go from there," veteran winger Teemu Selanne told FOX Sports after Anaheim's 7-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. "I still believe that we have all the pieces here."
Having feasted on non-playoff teams like the lowly Islanders and Blue Jackets, Anaheim made a bold statement with Sunday’s 4-2 win at Northwest Division-leading Vancouver.
The Ducks have gotten it done with offense. In their five victories they've averaged five goals per game and outscored opponents 25-10.
Their top two scoring lines have scored a combined 38 points in the last six games. A healthy, resurgent Jason Blake has been a huge boost to the third line, adding six points in as many games. In their 5-0 romp over Edmonton, 10 different Ducks nicked up the scoresheet.
“The story of the year is that points have been tough to come by for everybody. The more scoring that we can have and in games like this, the better, it adds a bit of confidence to our group,” team captain Ryan Getzlaf said to FOX Sports on Jan. 13.
As the team sunk from being a fourth-seeded playoff club last year to a cellar-dweller this season, the Ducks had struggled due to a combination of injuries to key players and underperforming stars. Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan were among the puzzling underachievers this season, though both have recently turned it on alongside reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry.
“The first-liners are playing like superstars and everybody’s following their act,” Selanne told reporters.
That includes two veteran forwards who had been on the mend from injury, Saku Koivu and Blake. Since coming back from a lower-body injury, Koivu has 10 points in eight games, while Blake propelled the Ducks to their massive win in Vancouver with his first three-point outing since March 2010.
Koivu said even before this streak, he saw things moving in the right direction.
“Little by little it’s been building up and you can see that now with our confidence,” Koivu said to reporters after the Ducks beat Dallas 5-2 on Jan. 10.
Anaheim has also gotten superb goaltending from Jonas Hiller, who drew ubiquitous praise in the Ducks locker room. During the streak, Hiller has gone 3-0-1 with one shutout, two goals against and an overtime loss in which he allowed just one goal to Calgary.
“It’s so much fun if you win especially if you had to go through what we went through in the first half of the year,” Hiller told FOX Sports after shutting out the Oilers on Jan. 13.
Regaining possession has been key for the Ducks, who have the second-worst shot differential in the league and have been exceptionally poor on faceoffs without Koivu. During their resurgence, they have played much less in their own end. They have also increased their aggressiveness in the offensive zone, their tenacity on the forecheck and their intensity on the backcheck.
“When we make them play against us, rather than us playing against them, then we’re good,” coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters on Jan. 10.
Both Boudreau and Perry have emphasized getting better starts and more pucks to the net early, something the Ducks have accomplished after some very poor starts right before this recent run began.
While the Ducks have a very long way to crawl into the playoff picture, they have started an effort with shades of the New Jersey Devils’ herculean playoff push following a horrendous start last season.
“I can’t see any reason why we can’t stay hot right now and just try to take a run,” Selanne told FOX Sports. “Who knows what’s going to happen? We can’t really control what’s happened here, we can only control what’s going to happen.”