Ducks Stat-urday: First Period Woes

Jeff Gross

The Ducks are slow starters. And it's starting to create serious problems for them.

After getting off to their best start ever, the Anaheim Ducks have scuffled over their last 12, going 5-6-1. One common thread in this skid, and indeed one of their biggest problems all season, is related to the team’s struggles in the first period.

Over the course of the season, Anaheim has surrendered 40 goals in the first period, their worst among any of their periods (for the record, they’ve given up 28 in the second and 30 in the third). In 41 games, that means the Ducks are surrendering nearly a goal per game (0.98) in the first alone. When you consider that their overall GA/G is 2.4, you can see why the first period rates are so troublesome. Even with their first period woes, the GA/G has the Ducks at eighth overall in the league, and you’d have to think they should be in the top five if they could only figure out how to stop giving up so many goals in the game’s opening 20 minutes.

Sadly, it’s not just the defense that struggles in the first. The Ducks have only racked up 31 first-period goals on the year, which significantly lags behind their second and third period production (46 and 40, respectively). This equates to only 0.76 goals per game in the first, which makes their overall number of 2.9 goals for per game pretty impressive.

Both of these numbers together combine for a negative scoring differential in the first of -9. This year the first is the only period where they give up more goals than they score. None of this was a problem when the Ducks were able to win games in which they trailed, but that winning percentage when trailing after two has dropped off considerably. Once around the 66% mark, the Ducks are now only wining 35.7% of games in which they trail after two periods. They’re also winning less than 50% of games when they’re trailing after one period (47.1%). This is clearly a problem, and actually closely reflects our point percentage over our last 12 games (0.458).

So what’s the problem? Let’s take a look at our shots for and against per period.

Period

Shots For

SF/G

Shots Against

SA/G

Diff

1

390

9.51

377

9.20

+13

2

387

9.44

409

9.98

-22

3

340

8.29

328

8

+28

Well, that doesn’t solve a damn thing, does it? We actually generate more shots out of any period in the first, but we’re scoring fewer goals that period than in any other. The Ducks shoot a woeful 7.95% in the first, while shooting 11.89% (!!!) and 11.76% in the second and third. In fact, the only period where the Ducks have a negative shooting differential (the second), is our best period for scoring differential on the season.

What this does mean, however, is that our goaltending is getting abused in the first periods of games. The Ducks save percentage in the first, second, and third is 0.894, 0.932 (!!!), and 0.878. Actually, as bad as their first period stats are, the Ducks are pretty damn lucky they haven’t coughed up more games, what with that abysmal third period save percentage. For the record, Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth currently own save percentages of 0.903 and 0.923, so you can see how this varies against the period totals.

Whatever the reason, this has become a real and consistent problem for the Ducks. The entire team is coming out flat to start games and we’ve lost our mojo in terms of making up for those deficits. Part of me thinks this has to be on the coaching staff, since they’re the ones who can best ensure that the team comes out fired up. Perhaps Boudreau would be wise to burn timeouts early in the first if his team shows a lack of hustle after the first few shifts. As games like Wednesday’s pathetic effort show, this team might be dead in the water after a slow first. And going into the playoffs, that could mean a quick exit.

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