With the most points and the most wins at the break, it’s tough to find a glaring weakness in the the Anaheim Ducks. Some tweaks may be made on special teams, but nothing drastic - the Ducks have been without some of their best players this season after a first half that included losing Getzlaf, Corey Perry and a few other top players to the mumps, Perry to a knee injury, Kyle Palmieri to two injuries and more. Let’s just say the injuries and illnesses mounted in roller coaster of a first half.
APJae C. Hong
The schedule does the Ducks no favors after the break. Anaheim will consistently play every other day with two back-to-backs in February and one in March and they’ve still got two East Coast swings left as well. With games against top teams clustered together, look for Ilya Bryzgalov to take on the bottom-dwelling teams in between. Bryzgalov is now fully in season form and Bruce Boudreau has stressed the importance of working him into a rotation. Frederik Andersen isn’t about to yield to his backup anytime soon. In fact, he may find himself in the Vezina Trophy conversation as he’s second in the league behind Tuukka Rask with 26 wins. But as the Ducks inch closer to the postseason, letting him rest should help them make a deeper run.
Eric Brewer should be returning soon, giving the Ducks a dangerously deep corps of defenseman. It was a small sample size, but in two games before he broke his foot, Brewer impressed. He tallied two points against San Jose and logged more than 21 minutes on the ice before the injury. Brewer may not be the top-four defenseman that he once was, but his veteran presence is a nice compliment to young, emerging defenseman like Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. The Ducks will have the luxury of seven effective defensemen when Brewer returns. They’ll have a little bit of everything: Two-way players in Lindholm, Vatanen and Fowler, a glue guy in Ben Lovejoy and physical special teams guys in Francois Beauchemin and Clayton Stoner.
NHLI via Getty ImagesDon Smith
The Ducks finished the first half as hot as they started, and the key will be sustaining the heat. Boudreau’s Washington team was once nicknamed the “Cardiac Caps” for their tendency to fizzle down the stretch. But there have been strong indications that forwards like Rene Bourque and Devante Smith-Pelly are trending upward. Patrick Maroon and Andrew Cogliano broke out of their scoring slumps and Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell have been skating like mad men and seeing positive results. Matt Beleskey is having a breakout season and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down after 17 goals. Boudreau’s unpredictability could prove to be advantageous: He’s got four lines to roll but he’s not afraid to mix and match those lines to spark chemistry. And even in their worst moments, chemistry has never been a question for this team.