St. Louis Blues Opposition: Anaheim Ducks
The Blues, for whatever reason, don’t seem to have success against the Anaheim Ducks. While it hasn’t impacted either team in the postseason, the Blues would like that to change.
The St. Louis Blues have not done well against Anaheim in this decade. Whether it be the Ducks size or skill or the west coast travel, the Blues just don’t seem to be able to win against Anaheim with regularity.
The same can be said of all the California teams, but in terms of the regular season, the Ducks have been a particular thorn for the Blues. It has not affected either team in the playoffs, since they have never played in the postseason, but the Blues would like to change that fact.
Anaheim is an interesting team. They are typically kept on somewhat of a budget, but still manage to regularly be at the top of the Pacific Division and therefore a Stanley Cup contender.
They have locked up the core of their team, but for some reason they have been unable to get over the hump in recent times. It was not too long ago that Anaheim won the Stanley Cup, but it has been harder to reattain that success.
Now, the team is transitioning a little bit. Gone is Bruce Boudreau, a coach who led the team to four straight division crowns, and the goaltending situation is rotating a bit as well.
The Ducks are coming off three straight 100 point seasons. However, there is never any guarantee that change will always lead to a step forward.
The only notable addition for the Ducks was goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Bernier is being brought in to be goaltender 1B at best and a backup at worst.
Bernier was labled as the next big thing while backing up in Los Angeles. He hasn’t quite lived up to expectations when given a more prominent role with Toronto, but he was not given a lot of help as the Maple Leafs have been just north of awful.
How much he can help is up in the air. Bernier has the skills, but history is littered with goaltenders that had skills and could not put it all together.
In his defense, Bernier isn’t going to be shouldering the load in a perfect world. The Ducks are clearly ready to hand the reigns to John Gibson, so Bernier would not be the main man. That may fit better with his game right now.
If the Ducks were worried about quanitity, they did not show it in their offseason moves. The Ducks brought in only one player and lost three.
However, in terms of quality, the Ducks may not be missing out on much. The biggest loss, at least Blues fans are hoping so, could be David Perron.
While Perron has not been a fireball the last few seasons, he managed to really spark something once arriving in Anaheim. In 20 games following his trade, he scored 8 goals and had 20 points.
He had one goal and three points in seven playoff games as well. That may not sound great, but Perron played reasonably well overall despite the team’s first round exit to Nashville.
Also gone is Jamie McGinn. McGinn is one of those players that is hard to gauge how much the Ducks might miss him.
He has the ability to be a regular 20 goal scorer. His point totals have not been as high as some would like, but he has proven the ability to score.
The problem is consistency. Also, like Perron, McGinn was only a rental player, so in the team’s defense, they did not have any attachment to his potential.
The biggest loss will likely be Frederik Andersen. In an interesting swap, the Ducks got Bernier and the Maple Leafs got Andersen, but they were not traded for each other directly.
The deals came about 12 days apart. It was an odd occurrence, but the teams did what was best for both, i.e. the Ducks waited until after Bernier got paid his $2 million bonus.
Like the Blues, the Ducks are handing the reigns over to a younger goaltender they believe will be their franchise netminder going forward. The only problem is giving up on what you know vs what could be.
Andersen has won 20 or more games three years in a row. His lowest save percentage was .914 and he had two straight years of 60% or better in quality starts.
That’s hard to give up on, but Gibson has put up similar numbers. Like the Blues, the Ducks had to make a choice as opposed to spending big dollars on both goaltenders.
However, the Ducks are in a strange position. Talent-wise, they should be in a good position.
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The Ducks still have two of the best forwards in the league in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. They have a pretty good defense that allowed the fewest goals in the lague. They have a very solid goaltender too.
The Ducks made a very puzzling decision to replace Boudreau with the man they fired to hire him. Randy Carlyle is back as the Ducks coach in an almost unheard of swap.
Carlyle is not a bad coach. He won the Cup with the Ducks and also went to the conference finals, but his teams started taking a backward slide and several of the players from his final team are still there.
I freely acknowledge I haven’t been very bold in my predictions, but I just don’t see a large change in enough teams to knock off the top ones. The Pacific Division is definitely improved, but the Ducks would have to take a serious step back for them to fall out of the top three.
Anaheim does not seem poised to be the best in the division again, but LA and San Jose all got clustered last season. It would not be shocking for them to win their fifth division crown.
The Blues used to dominate the Ducks when they first came around. The Blues only lost eight games in total in the 90’s.
As the decades changed, the Ducks evened things out. Then, in this decade, Anaheim took control.
Anaheim has a 14-10 edge since 2010. The Blues are still ahead overall, but not much at 40-39-5.
The Blues actually won two of three last season. It was the first time they had won more games than not since 2004.
The problem the Blues face this year is their record is less than stellar in Anaheim. Two of three will be on the Ducks’ home ice this season.
The first game will be on the road on Saturday, January 15. The teams swap the final two, with St. Louis getting its home game on Friday, March 10 and ending on the road on Wednesday, March 15.
The Blues have not played the Ducks in the playoffs, but it would still be a mental hurddle to pick up some wins in Anaheim. Until proven otherwise, I expect another 1-2 record this year though.