On Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 the Anaheim Ducks will face the Buffalo Sabres in what will be the first game of a four-game road trip for the California-based franchise. The trip will continue on Saturday, Dec 19 with a contest against the New Jersey Devils.
After a Sunday break, the Ducks will finish up with back to back games on Monday, Dec. 21 and Tuesday, Dec. 22, against the New York islanders and New York Rangers, respectively. This is a critical road trip, as the Ducks have the fewest points (27) in the entire Western Conference.
One of the biggest problems this season, has been a consistent lack of offensive punch. After 29 games played, the Ducks have scored just 56 goals, which is far and away the fewest in the NHL. The next closest are the Toronto Maple Leafs who have scored 68 goals. Toronto and the Columbus Blue Jackets are also the only teams with a worse overall record than the Ducks.
Last season, the Ducks won the Pacific division, were the fourth-highest scoring team in the Western Conference and with a record of 51-24-7, were the top-seeded playoff team in the Conference. So far this season, they have a record of 11-13-5 and would need to go 40-11-2 down the stretch in order to equal last season’s record. The lack of goal-scoring seems to be the most pressing issue.
If the Ducks do not perform well on the upcoming road trip, they may not be able to recover. After the team’s most recent loss, a 5-1 disappointment at home against Carolina on Friday, Dec. 11, both head coach Bruce Boudreau and team captain Ryan Getzlaf questioned the team’s effort and dedication. To top it all off, center Nate Thompson was ejected from that game and will miss the next three games due a suspension handed down by the NHL, after his needless hit to the head of Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk during the loss.
Consistency, discipline and scoring; all three are top priorities. Here are five Anaheim players who must pick up the pace if the Ducks are to turn the season around.
Ryan Getzlaf – Center
It starts at the top. Team captain Ryan Getzlaf has always been a pass-first type player, but this season his goal production has been next to nonexistent. Last season, the 2014 Hart Trophy finalist scored 25 goals, 45 assists and had a plus/minus rating of + 15. This season, he has appeared in 25 games and has just one goal, 17 assists and a plus/minus rating of zero. The bulk of the scoring is expected to come from the top line, and so far, Getzlaf and company have not been getting it done.
Ryan Kesler – Center
Ryan Kesler is billed as the prototype second-line center. He normally is trusted with neutralizing the opposing team’s top line, while putting in some timely offensive production. Last season, the 2011 Selke Trophy winner registered 20 goals, 27 assists and a plus/minus rating of -5. This season, he has appeared 29 games and has three goals, eight assists and a plus/minus rating of -12.
Corey Perry – Right Wing
It has been tough sledding for the 2011 Hart Trophy winner. Last season, Perry appeared in 67 regular season games. He scored 33 goals, 22 assists and had a plus/minus rating of +13. This season, he has appeared in all 29 games and has 10 goals, nine assists and a plus/minus rating of -4. He is on pace for his lowest goals-per-game average since his 2005-06 rookie season.
Carl Hagelin – Left Wing
An offseason acquisition via trade with the New York Rangers, Hagelin was supposed to provide some much-needed depth scoring. So far, it simply has not worked out. It is not just that Hagelin rarely winds up on the scoresheet, but he seems to be having a great deal of difficulty fitting in with the Ducks overall offensive scheme. As a member of the Rangers last season, the Swedish import played in all 82 games and had 17 goals, 18 assists and a plus/minus rating of + 18. This season, he has appeared in all 29 games for Anaheim and has two goals, five assists and a plus/minus rating of -8
Andrew Cogliano – Left Wing
An energy player and sparkplug, Cogs is known for his quickness, grit and determination. A very durable player, he has appeared in 651 straight regular season games. Though not a top-six type forward, he has made a living by forcing turnovers and taking away time and space from opposing players and chipping in a timely goal. That said, last season he had 15 goals and 14 assists and a plus/minus rating of +5, in 82 regular season games. This season, he has just three goals, six assists and a plus/minus rating of -10.