It hasn’t been pretty in Anaheim. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the meltdown in Columbus, the hockey world would probably be more fixated on what’s going on in Orange County at the moment. And with John Tortorella behind the Blue Jackets’ bench, the focus is shifting toward the Ducks now anyway.
Many considered Anaheim a favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year. If not for a few posts and crossbars in overtime of the Western Conference Final — and a couple well-timed Antoine Vermette goals — the Ducks may have won the whole thing last season. Expectations were high as a result, and rightly so. Instead, they’ve won one of their first six games.
A year ago at this time, Bruce Boudreau’s squad was 5-1. In fact, they began the 2014-15 campaign by going 7-1 — they were basically last year’s version of the Montreal Canadiens. In those first eight games, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry had combined for 12 goals and 12 assists. This year, they each have one assist. Total.
They’re not the only ones struggling, they’re just the most obvious. Getzlaf entered this year with 678 points in 710 career games. That’s an average of 0.95 points per game, over 10 NHL seasons. Not exactly a small sample size, and it would seem to indicate that he’s basically immune to slumps. Over the course of 82 games last year, he never once was limited to just one point in a six-game stretch.
Meanwhile, Perry is a former Hart Trophy winner who routinely nets 30-40 (and sometimes 50) goals per year. He entered this season with 602 points in 722 career games, 296 of which were goals. That’s 0.83 points — and 0.41 goals — per game. Something isn’t adding up here.
Is it just bad timing? Two of the more prolific offensive weapons of the last decade hitting uncharacteristic slumps at the exact same time? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Anaheim fans to swallow. They’re both 30 years old, so it’s not like they suddenly fell out of their prime and hit a wall. And they do both play on the same line. That usually works in their favor, but it at least makes some sense that if one of them were struggling to make plays, it might affect the other’s production.
Those two are getting chances, they’re just not finishing them right now. Based on that — and the collective 20 years of work they’ve put in at the NHL level — you have to assume they’ll come around. Sooner would be better than later though. Especially in the Western Conference.
With Getzlaf and Perry struggling, the Ducks are bound to have a hard time collectively. That’s just the way this roster was built. But they could still find ways to win a game here and there, and grind out a couple overtime losses to at least tread water. Problem is, no one else is getting the job done either. The goaltending has been shaky, and Anaheim has scored six total goals in six games — four of which came in one outing against the Wild. They’re not facing Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price every night, but it sure feels like it right now.
That’s troubling, considering guys playing for Boudreau tend to put up points. That’s one of his strengths as a coach. While Getzlaf and Perry have struggled, Ryan Kesler has been virtually nonexistent. The same goes for Jakob Silfverberg, who delivered one of last year’s breakout performances in the playoffs. Newly acquired Carl Hagelin has just one assist.
It doesn’t make sense, but there’s too much talent on this roster for it to last, right? For all their success in 2014-15, the Ducks did actually go through two prolonged slumps. From Nov. 5- 18, they won just one of seven — but they managed to pick up a point in five of those six losses. Those points add up. From Feb. 6-8, they went 1-4-1. The difference is, that was in the middle of the season, when they had already amassed 34 victories. And they followed it up by winning seven of their next eight.
If they can go on a run like that soon, much of this horrendous start will be forgotten. And it does sort of feel like a bunch of players will start scoring once the first one does. But who will that be? And how much longer can they stumble around like this, before changes are made?
They won’t be getting much help from the schedule either, as their final four contests of October are road tilts in Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis. Those four clubs are a combined 19-6-1 so far, and the Blackhawks are somehow the team with the worst record in that group. Anaheim still has time to pull out of this, but it won’t be easy.