It was a forgettable October for the Anaheim Ducks. And that’s putting it nicely. Following last year’s run to within inches of a Stanley Cup appearance, expectations were understandably high for Bruce Boudreau’s club entering the 2015-16 campaign.
Instead, they began the year by winning one of their first 10 games. Two of the most reliable point producers in hockey over the last decade — Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf — couldn’t get anything going at all. Making matters worse, Getzlaf had to deal with an appendectomy too.
That’s about as forgettable of a start that a team can have. But they’re still talented, it’s still somewhat early and they’re beginning to show some signs of looking more like the Anaheim team we’ve all come to know over the last few years. Is it possible they’re on the verge of turning this thing around?
To understand the task facing the Ducks, we first have to take a look at the standings. Yes, the first 10 contests were horrendous. And yes, they looked like a shell of themselves offensively at times — perhaps losing guys like Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri was a bigger deal than everyone had originally anticipated. But, even with all that said, they enter play on Saturday just four points back of San Jose for third in the Pacific. And, of course, third in the division equals a playoff spot.
Is it too early to look at potential playoff scenarios? Absolutely. Except, it makes sense as a point of reference in this case. All is not lost for this group. Things went badly, but they didn’t blow up the team. They didn’t make some sort of panic trade, or give up on Boudreau. Sometimes, those are the only ways for a floundering team to salvage their season. In Anaheim’s case though, it probably would’ve been too hasty.
So now they still have their coach behind the bench, their talented roster intact and, most importantly, the majority of their season in front of them. It’s not like the hole they’ve dug themselves is impossible to climb out of — far from it, in fact. If they can get back on track soon, they still have something to play for.
Of course, that motivation of having something to play for generally makes it a little easier to get back on track as well. In theory, at least. Ultimately, talking about getting better does nothing if you don’t actually go out and perform. And there’s reason to believe the Ducks might be able to start doing that.
The Ducks are currently on a three-game winning streak. That’s a modest number, but it’s also their biggest winning streak of the season. What’s more, one of those wins came over the impressive Nashville Predators. The others came in thrilling fashion against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers and against a Columbus Blue Jackets squad starting to turn things around under a new head coach.
In fact, the way that second victory played out could have the makings of a potential turning point game. Not to say Anaheim suddenly rattles off 10 straight wins or anything, but it’s possible we all look back in March and point to that contest as one of the pivotal moments for this group.
Down by a goal with just over five seconds left in regulation, the Ducks were able to tie the game up, then win it in the shootout. More importantly, Corey Perry was able to tie it up. Not only did they manage two points, they finally got their top goal-scorer on the board.
So now Anaheim has three wins to build from, Perry’s on the board, Boudreau is still in place and Getzlaf is back from injury. Is that enough? Maybe not. They’ll need to get Ryan Kesler playing like Ryan Kesler again too. And they’ll obviously need more from the likes of Jakob Silfverberg and Carl Hagelin as well. But at least it would be a huge step in the right direction. And they still have one other big element working in their favor: goaltending.
For as much as Frederik Andersen’s 2-5-2 record may not be impressive, it’s more a reminder that you can’t always judge a netminder by his win-loss totals. His 2.03 goals against average has been remarkable — as has his .934 save percentage. It’s not his fault his team isn’t scoring in front of him.
Maybe he can’t maintain those exact peripherals all season, but it would be monumental if he could continue to deliver strong performances between the pipes. Doing so would make a bounce-back by Perry and/or Getzlaf that much more valuable. If they — or any of the other forwards, for that matter — get going, and Andersen just does what he’s been doing and keeps the opposition from scoring, a turnaround in Orange County might not be that far-fetched after all.