The Anaheim Ducks currently sit atop the NHL standings with 70 points and a 32-10-6 record. Yet, a glance at their team stats would have you thinking otherwise.
They are 13th in the league in goals for per game, 10th in goals against per game, 17th in power play percentage and 18th in penalty kill percentage. Even their possession stats are fairly ordinary, as they are 13th in the NHL in Corsi For percentage and 10th in Fenwick For percentage.
So why are they first in the NHL?
Because they are an incredible 22-0-6 in one-goal games. That kind of clutch team performance is the catalyst to the team’s success, and something the Ducks will need to do in order to stay atop the NHL for the rest of the season.
Here are five keys for the Ducks to maintain their NHL-best record for the remainder of the season.
1. Keep winning the tight games
This is the clutch thing we were just talking about where captain Ryan Getzlaf has led his team to an absurd amount of victories in one-goal games.
Getzlaf is in the conversation for the Hart Trophy this season and for good reason. When Corey Perry missed 10 games in December, the Ducks went 7–2–1, and Getzlaf recorded 16 points in those games, including two game-winning goals. If this team keeps following the lead of their captain, their clutch late-game performances should continue.
2. Get more secondary scoring
Calling all forwards who aren’t named Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry. Yes, we mean you Patrick Maroon, Jakob Silfverberg, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Andrew Cogliano, who have combined for a disappointing 20 goals in 183 games.
Ryan Kesler and Matt Beleskey may be having a decent season behind the two big guns, but other than those two the Ducks have gotten very little secondary scoring from their forwards.
Silfverberg was expected to slide nicely into a top-six role when the Ducks acquired him in July 2013 from the Senators, yet he has just six goals and 18 points in 48 games this season. He’s just one example of the many forwards who the Ducks need more from in the second half.
3. Improve their special teams
As mentioned, the Ducks special teams are very average. Now that Corey Perry is back, it’s quite likely their power play will continue to improve from the current 17.6 per cent mark. In the nine games since Perry has returned the power play has gone an impressive 8-for-30, or 27 per cent. There was a time not long ago when the Ducks power play was feared across the league — Lubimor Visnovsky anybody? — and if that can happen again, winning games will be even easier.
Anaheim’s penalty kill percentage isn’t bad (80.5 per cent), but on the road it’s just 76 per cent. With 20 of the Ducks’ final 35 games coming on the road, that number needs to be closer to their mark at home.
4. Stay healthy
It’s no secret that health can be the detriment of any good team, and the Ducks, like everybody else, will need to stay healthy the rest of the season.
Anaheim has sustained 250 man games lost this season (second most in the NHL), a feat that makes their top dog status all the more incredible, but with Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin back, their other top players will need to stay healthy the rest of the way if the Ducks are to keep up their winning ways.
5. Strong goaltending from Andersen
Coming into the season many thought Frederik Andersen and John Gibson would split goaltending duties, but that has been far from the case. Gibson got hurt early in the season, and the Ducks eventually signed Ilya Bryzgalov to backup Andersen.
That has meant a lot of starts, and a lot of pressure for the Ducks’ sophomore netminder, who so far has shown to be up for the task. Andersen is fourth in the NHL in starts with 39, and second in wins with 27. However, that trend is unlikely to continue with the Ducks monitoring his workload more carefully during this final stretch in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
So as good as Andersen has been, head coach Bruce Boudreau will have to pick his spots with his No. 1 guy, meaning Andersen will have to be even sharper when he does get the call in the second half.