We're just over one month into the NHL season and already it seems clear which division will be the most competitive throughout the entire year and that division is the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. Despite each team having its specific weakness, all five teams are Stanley Cup caliber teams that, if got hot at the right time, could possibly find themselves hosting a parade come mid-June.
For the Anaheim Ducks, the window for success is closing rapidly thanks to age. Guys like Saku Koivu, Jason Blake and Teemu Selanne are at the very end of their careers, especially Selanne who signed a one-year contract for this season and might very well retire in the spring. The 41-year-old right winger – who is known as “The Finnish Flash” – undoubtedly wants to lift the cup just once more before he hangs it up but if the Ducks continue to play poorly on the road, number eight and the rest of the Ducks might not even get that opportunity.
Things were looking up for Anaheim just two weeks ago, after a strong 3-2 win Oct. 27 on the road against the Minnesota Wild. But it didn’t take long for the jet lag to kick in. As the seven game trip came to an end with a 5-0 loss at Detroit, the Ducks finished 1-3-3 on the trip and headed home for a much needed extra hour of sleep.
During the trip, the team averaged just 1.6 goals per game, which isn’t good enough to beat any team in the league these days – well except maybe the imploding Columbus Blue Jackets. With that said, it comes as a surprise that the Ducks power play has emerged as one of the league’s most potent, with just over a 25 percent scoring rate on the man advantage.
The offense will certainly have to begin producing more, as Anaheim’s scoring threats seem to be just four players – Selanne, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Those four players are the only Ducks who have managed to score more than once in a contest.
“You need everybody,” Selanne told Fox Sports West. “There's no room for passengers right now. Especially when the team is struggling. Everybody has to play their best and the effort has to be there every night. If not, it's bad news.”
Inconsistency has to be the best word to describe the Ducks in the early-goings. The Ducks still have almost four months to get their act together on the road, which is the reason for their rough start. The Ducks are used to slow starts though, Anaheim started 6-7-1 last year but went on to win 41 of their final 68 games, to earn an important home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
But now the Ducks have the worst road record in the Pacific Division and if there are playoff aspirations, the team will have to be able to win on the road. And it won't be easy, especially since San Jose is one of the toughest buildings for the opposition in the league.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.