Kyle's Midseason Awards: What a Fasth Start

Silly Kings. You thought we were going to let you be the only team around with a speedy goalie name. - USA TODAY Sports

Well… how about that for a first half of the season?

My turn? Cool. Continuing with our week-long mid-season awards series, here's my take on the Anaheim Ducks through 24 games of this shortened NHL campaign. [Ed. Note: Written prior to Dallas game. - JN] This was a difficult list to come up with in some ways and in others... not so much. So right from the top, hearty congratulations to the entire team for managing to knock our socks off with the first half this season; you all deserve at least a piece of the credit for that.

MVD: Three guys stood out for this one. And I have to give props to both Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Coglanio for their amazing performances thus far.

But my big winner: Viktor Fasth. Everybody will tell you about his feel-good story; a 30-year-old Swedish goalie comes over after tearing it up in his home country and becomes the front-runner for the Calder Trophy (or at least he would have, were there no stupid age-limit rule on it). Fasth is currently third in the NHL in goals-against (1.92) and save-percentage (.929), and sits amongst the league leaders with 10 wins in 12 starts. The only goalie with 10 wins in fewer starts this season: Ray Emery in Chicago.

Nobody thought the Ducks had a genuine gem on their hands, but Viktor Fasth has done exactly what coaches want their goalies to do every night: given the team a chance to win. And not only has he done that, Fasth has stolen several games for the Ducks.

To date, Fasth has only lost one game in regulation-that abysmal team effort vs. LA. His win record includes a season-series sweep of the Nashville Predators and a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Not taking anything away from Jonas Hiller who's had a pretty darn good year himself. However without Fasth there to push him and provide a solid backstop, the Ducks are nowhere near as high in the standings as they are right now.

And now we have perhaps the best problem in hockey: which one of two starting-caliber goalies do we send between the pipes on any given night?

LVD: This one should be no surprise. I recently said in an article that if Brad Staubitz was included in a trade that brought in a second-line center, it'd be the most productive thing he's done for the team all season. I stand by that.

I hated this signing the moment it was announced. We wanted a guy who we could scratch easier than George Parros, and yes, we got that. Not saying that's a bad thing considering Georgie would have been scratched even more this season were he still around. However Staubitz is yet to do anything to prove he's valuable to this team as anything more than an enforcing goon.

Off the top of my head, the only things I can remember him doing this season are taking a selfish spearing penalty that could be blamed for an ugly loss, and recently getting cut across the face with a skate. Nothing significant in offensive production or even decent play.

I honestly don't know why he's ever in the lineup at all. With so many kids in Norfolk jostling for a roster position, this team could afford to be without an otherwise pointless player.

We have our "energy" role covered by the third line and our "enforcer" role is being taken on by just about anybody on the team, most recently Patrick Maroon.

Keep the skill guys in the lineup and give us the best chance to win. Shed the dead weight.

Biggest Surprise: My friend and I started getting my roommates into hockey because, well, why not? Almost immediately one of them gravitated toward this guy because he loved the grit, energy, and at the start of the season, scoring touch he provided.

Yep, I'm talking about Dan Winnik. Who would have thought that four games into this season our newly-signed gritty, energy guy would briefly lead both the team and the entire NHL in goals?

Yeah he's not there anymore but his six goals and 13 points is nothing to scoff at. In fact he's one of eleven Ducks with at least 10 on the season. That shocking surge of depth scoring is what has vaulted this team atop the Pacific and kept them on the heels of the Chicago Blackhawks.

I've often described having Dan Winnik on your team is like going to Subway for lunch: it's not flashy or fancy, but it consistently gets the job done, you know what you're getting, and let's face it, sometimes it can actually be pretty good. And it's this kind of play that has made him an invaluable part of the Ducks this season.

And likewise I got to give a special shoutout to our youngsters for surprising me, particularly Emerson Etem, Patrick Maroon, Peter Holland, and Rickard Rakell (when he was with us). The kids have been killing it this season and Boudreau's getting everything he can out of them.

Biggest Disappointment: Our Penalty Kill. No flashy story or intro needed, our PK has been more enigmatic than a hot Russian prospect in Don Cherry's mind.

Some nights, i.e. last time out at Minnesota, the penalty killers come up HUGE, eliminating a five-minute major and holding the fort late in the game to s(t)eal the win.

Other nights our PK is an absolute eyesore. Guys are getting lost everywhere and pucks are finding the back of our net almost for free.

And it just baffles me sometimes. I've lauded the play of guys like Emerson Etem, Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano, and Francios Beauchimin for their amazing prowess on the PK. And our goaltenders, whom Hazy so often says need to be the best penalty killers, have been amazing almost every game all season. Sometimes we look so rock solid that you forget there were ever problems in the first place.

Yet the Ducks can't get their PK out of the NHL's basement, currently sitting at an abysmal 77.0%. To put that into perspective, that's surrendering just over one goal every five times we go a man down.

It's not like we're getting a lot of penalties either! In fact Anaheim's the fourth-best team in the league when it comes to discipline this year, going shorthanded a mere 87 times. Yet we've surrendered 20 power play goals!

The biggest reason for my concern is this: the last 7 Stanley Cup champions all had great penalty kills in the playoffs.


Year

Team

PK%

PK Rank (playoffs)

2012

LA (barf)

92.1

T-1st

2011

Boston

84.4

6th

2010

Chicago

83.3

4th

2009

Pittsburgh

83.3

5th

2008

Detroit

85.7

4th

2007

Anaheim

86.8

8th

2006

Carolina

85.4

6th

That's the entire last CBA's term of teams with top-half PK's in the playoffs.

You have to go all the way back to the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning to find a Stanley Cup champion that was not in the top half of the playoffs on the penalty kill. Even though they finished ranked 10th out of the 16 playoff teams, they still earned a respectable 85.5%.

I think I've proven my point: the penalty kill unit needs to shape up and find some consistency or this freight train of a team isn't going anywhere come springtime.

Fearless Prediction: Ducks keep Perry, get a 2C at deadline; sink SJ in 1st rd. First LA-ANA playoff series in semis. SoCal LITERALLY tears apart at LA/OC line.

God help me... I'm on the wrong side of that line. Damn earthquakes.

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