After winning four of their last five games going into the All-Star break and bye week, the Ducks have stumbled back on track to compete for the first overall pick in this year’s draft.
There was not much worrying that the Ducks’ little hot streak would take them out of the running. However, with the Columbus Blue Jackets still struggling with injuries and the Chicago Blackhawks actively looking to trade franchise icons, Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane, it is stiff competition for the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.
Feb. 6 at Dallas Stars 3-2 SO loss
The Ducks’ first game back from the break was against the Dallas Stars, who were on a three-game losing streak with overtime losses to the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and the New Jersey Devils. It was John Klingberg’s first game back in Dallas after spending his first eight seasons with the Stars.
The Stars took control of the game early and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third period. Then the Ducks tagged on a couple of goals within a minute and a half in the third period when Jakob Silfverberg tipped in a shot from Kevin Shattenkirk from the point, and Trevor Zegras kept the puck from exiting the offensive zone then set up Adam Henrique for the game-tying goal.
The game would go to overtime, but that still was not enough, so it went to a shootout, where the Ducks have been good all year long with Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry’s dazzling stick handling. But this time, Zegras and Henrique would fumble the puck at the moment of truth, dropping this game in a shootout 3-2.
John Gibson was masterful in this game, stopping 39-41 and having a 3.24 goals saved above expected.
Feb. 7 at Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 OT win
The second game of the Ducks’ back-to-backs was a trip to Chicago to square off with fellow NHL bottom feeders Chicago Blackhawks.
It was a slow start for both teams, with seven combined shots on goal at the halfway point of the opening period. The second period started to pick up, and both teams netted a couple of goals.
The goal scoring was back and forth and started when Colton White turned the puck over, and Jason Dickinson found the back of the net. Brett Leason would respond for the Ducks by following his shot and putting in his rebound to tie it up.
Then Seth Jones joined the rush and fired one high glove side past Anthony Stolarz to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. Brett Leason went back to work and forced Jones to turn the puck over to Jayson Megna, who fired it home for his first goal as a Duck to tie it up again 2-2.
A scoreless third period would send it to overtime, where Isac Lundestrom set up Frank Vatrano in front of the net for the game-winner.
Feb. 10 vs. Pittsburg Penguins 6-3 loss
The Ducks came home for a quick one-game home stand to welcome back Rickard Rakell. The Ducks’ first-round pick in 2011 spent ten seasons with the Ducks and scored the memorable game-tying goal with 15 seconds left in the Comeback On Katella in Game 5 of the 2017 Western Conference Semi Finals.
This game was an ugly one for the Ducks. At the end of the first period, the Ducks lost 3-1 and were outshot 25-8.
The Penguins completely outworked the Ducks, and John Gibson did everything he could, but it was all too much.
The final score was 6-3, and the Penguins outshot the Ducks 59-31. Gibson set a Ducks record with 53 saves in a game, beating the record of 52 set by himself last year.
The Ducks got goals from Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and John Klingberg. McTavish also had an assist.
Feb. 12 at Vegas Golden Knights 7-2 loss
The Ducks followed up an ugly game with an even uglier game in Vegas, who have owned the Ducks since becoming a team back in 2017-2018.
Vegas held a 2-1 lead going into the third period but then exploded to score five goals in nine minutes. The Ducks defense continues to have breakdowns and miscommunication, which sets up golden opportunities for opposing teams.
There were multiple times when it seemed as though the Ducks just could not get out of their own zone, with Vegas continuously applying pressure and the Ducks defense just not being able to catch up.
The Ducks lost this one 7-2 and now have a lifetime 4-22-1 record against the Golden Knights while being outscored 103-56.
John Gibson has been busy the last two games, facing a combined 98 shots on goal. The Ducks average 39.1 shots on goal against per game which is by far the worst in the NHL.
The gap between the Ducks and the second-worst team in shots against Columbus Blue Jackets is the same gap between the Blue Jackets and the 9th best team, Washington Capitals.
Frank Vatrano scored two goals and got an assist this week to continue his hot streak, including a hat trick a couple of weeks ago. Vatrano is on pace for 20-20-40, which would be career highs in assists and points.
Besides the goal and assist he recorded against Vegas, the scoresheet will not show how well Isac Lundestrom has played since coming off the IR. Lundestrom has been a much better playmaker on the third line and has gelled well with guys like Vatrano and Max Comtois.
Although the Ducks have been blown out the last couple of games, John Gibson has looked solid. The blowouts are more on the Ducks’ defensive struggles than Gibson, as he has made huge saves and kept the Ducks in some games.
The Ducks’ penalty kill was one of the positive takeaways from this week, only surrendering one powerplay goal 13 times on the penalty kill, including shutting down the fourth-best powerplay in the league at the time in the Dallas Stars five times. The fourth most penalized team in the NHL had the third worst PK% in the league when the week started and has since improved two slots to the fifth worst.
The Ducks have a quick two-game home stand this week as they take on the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night and then round two of the Freeway Face-off against the Los Angeles Kings Friday night.
After that, they take a grueling four-game road trip to face the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning on back-to-back nights, then the Washington Capitals, and finally the Carolina Hurricanes.
This road trip looks like it will help the Ducks’ pursuit of winning the draft lottery as they currently chase the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Ducks are now 17-31-6 with 40 points and sit 30th in the NHL with 28 games to go.