It feels like it’s been a long time since the Anaheim Ducks were desperately trying to claw themselves out of the Pacific Division basement.
The Ducks are 14-4-2 since the Christmas break, including a recent 6-game winning streak. Anaheim still sits third in the Pacific, but has shown flashes of the style of play that led them to 109 points last season.
Lighting that Lamp
A key reason for this resurgence is the offense finally showing signs of life. The Ducks have averaged 2.95 goals per game in the 20 games since Christmas, compared to 1.85 in the previous 33 games, per NHL.com.
Anaheim’s forwards are creating offense on the cycle, leading to more 5-on-5 scoring chances that they are finally burying.
It might help that the top players are heating up. Corey Perry has 21 goals, while captain Ryan Getzlaf’s 35 assists and 40 points lead the team. Rickard Rakell’s emergence has helped to spread the offense around, and the new acquisitions are finding their groove.
Scoring goals helps, but Anaheim’s defense has carried the weight throughout the season, and this recent stretch is no different.
Anaheim is 6th in the league in goals against per game and 3rd in shots against per game. The Ducks have been much better at limiting opposing chances, and the goaltending tandem of Freddy Andersen and John Gibson have done well to shut down the rest.
This defense-first mentality has carried over to the penalty kill, where Anaheim sits first in the league, shutting down 88.7% of opposing powerplays.
The young core has led the Anaheim defense, with players like Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen stepping up during injuries to Cam Fowler and Simon Despres. The Ducks’ blueline is finally returning to full health, which will be key moving forward.
Not Quite Out of the Woods
Even with the inspired hockey that the Ducks have played lately, they’re still sitting in the danger zone at 3rd in the Pacific Division, just four points up from Arizona and Vancouver.
Anaheim will need a strong finish to qualify for the playoffs, and part of that will be improving the road record. The Ducks are just 10-11-4 away from Honda Center this season. Compare that to San Jose and Los Angeles, the two teams ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific, which both own an 18-8-2 road record.
The Ducks have a chance to push their road record over .500 in the next few games, finishing their current trip with games in Chicago, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. All key games, of which three are against teams chasing Anaheim for a playoff spot.
This Anaheim team has shown they have the ability to battle back, and with continued improvement could find themselves with home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.