The Anaheim Ducks have been the definition of inconsistency through the first quarter of the 2018-2019 NHL season as they have struggled on both ends of the ice, resulting in more losing than winning.
Ridiculous. Disappointing. Pathetic. Those are only some of the words that you can use to describe the on-ice product the Anaheim Ducks put on in front of their fans in a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Friday night at Honda Center.
As a spectator and fan watching the game the other night, I was appalled at the lack of effort and determination the Ducks played with. All the Ducks players were seemingly losing every 1-on-1 battle with every Minnesota forward and defenseman. They weren’t battling hard enough.
In the second period, Ducks’ defensemen Josh Manson and Jacob Larsson were beaten and burned on essentially the same play by Minnesota forwards Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund. It was just executed on opposite sides of the goaltender’s cage. Both resulted in goals. Zucker and Granlund feasted on the Ducks the entire game.
The whole game was an embarrassment, echoed by Ducks left wing Andrew Cogliano.
The Ducks have consistently failed to execute on both ends of the ice; it has been a growing theme of this team. Not only that, this team does not always start on time when the game actually starts. In their breakout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and their most recent 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames this past Wednesday, the Ducks started off strong and sharp.
But in their losses to the Los Angeles Kings and this most recent one to the Minnesota Wild, the Ducks made inexcusable mistakes in their defensive zone and were constantly outshot, outworked, and outhustled by their opposition.
In fact, the Ducks were outshot 19-5 and 34-15 after the first and second periods in the loss to Minnesota.
The Wild and Ducks game started at 7 p.m. The Ducks seemingly didn’t start playing until 8:30 p.m, when they were down 3-0! Only then did I see some effort out there, but I was not seeing enough of it. It’s even more ridiculous when you consider the Wild played the previous night and looked the far better of the two teams.
Offensively, the Ducks are a mess. Their goal totals are 2,1,2,3,2,2,3,1,3,1 over their last 10 games. They have only scored the first goal twice in their last 11 games. Oh, and consequently they have won only two of their last 11 games. What a surprise.
They have scored just 41 goals in their first 18 games, averaging just over 2 goals a game. That’s not going to get the job done when the magic number to score is 3.
In fact, they are trailing twice as long as leading on average. On average, they are leading for 12:39 minutes on and trailing 25:05 minutes per game. At one point, the Ducks did not have a lead from Oct 23, 2018 to November 1, 2018 (a span of 5 games).
When you’re playing from behind, you have to work even harder to tie the game up. Its far too often this team is behind the proverbial 8-ball, and this needs to change immediately. Scoring the first goal has never been so important for this weak-minded Anaheim Ducks team.
They need to stop playing on the perimeter and start winning battles in front of the net to score.
Defensively, the Ducks are playing too much in their defensive zone. They have constant issues of moving and skating the puck out of the zone.
The problem here is that they are allowing the opposition to muscle them off the puck and win the 1-on-1 battles along the boards. Most alarming is that they seem to be always out of position.
What this allows is for other teams to get more shots directed toward their goaltender and stay in the Ducks’ defensive zone. Players get tired, and they start taking risks as a means to get off the ice because of extended shifts.
It also takes time away from the Anaheim Ducks to generate their own offense, which has been hard to come by this season. They don’t get to possess the puck.
Their defensive structure had been better as of late, but the execution of the team working up and down the ice has overall been shaky at best. The team has considerable work to do and be tougher, harder, and stronger with the puck.
Some are calling for coach Carlyle to be fired. I agree to some extent. The idea that this team cannot start a game on time and be ready to play is unacceptable and falls on him. But the product and effort put on the ice is on the players. The players need to perform and perform now.
This team is 7-8-3 (7 wins, 8 regulation losses, 3 overtime/shootout losses) through its first 18 games. While the season is still young, the Ducks need to start executing and playing better together as a team. The loss to Minnesota was their wake-up call.
Let’s be real. The only reason the Anaheim Ducks have seven wins is because of their goaltenders. John Gibson and Ryan Miller have been outstanding as the last line of defense for this team every night they have played. No doubt, they have been the Ducks best players.
While they have kept the Ducks in games and have given the Ducks the opportunity to steal games (you could argue they helped the Ducks steal (win) their 5 of 7 games of the season), the Ducks need stop trying to steal games and start showing they deserve to win games through effort, execution, and better puck management as a team on both ends of the ice.
The thing with stealing games is you don’t deserve to win them. You haven’t earned them.
I hate to call out the Anaheim Ducks for their effort, but when I go to a hockey game, I expect to see the players give it their all; The game against the Wild was honestly the worst I’ve ever seen them play live. I left the arena angry because I saw and knew they didn’t try their best out there.
The Anaheim Ducks need to start putting their hearts in their play, beginning with their next game against the league-leading Nashville Predators on Monday. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long season.