Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
The Ducks have found their way into a bit of a scoring renaissance. They scored four goals in three of the five games on their recent winning streak, and they've notched back-to-back five goal games since their loss to the Kings. However, the team has also surrendered four goals in three consecutive games, making the four points they yielded in that stretch all the more impressive.
And yet, that was Bob Murray's plan for this team, swiss cheese defense and all-cheddar offense. So, Daniel, can the high flying offensive team that Murray envisioned find enough 5 goal games to steamroll their way into the playoffs or will Murray's non-efforts on the blueline ultimately undermine this team?
I do think the Ducks can stay close to this offensive pace, but I actually don't think they will need to in order to make the playoffs. Anaheim will need strong defense down the stretch, regardless of how well the offense plays. They have definitely decided to start winning high scoring games, but that is not now nor will it ever be the primary path to victory for this team, not as long as Carlyle is behind the bench. I don't care how much offense Murray tries to bring to the line up; the Ducks have 23 wins this season and in only 5 of those games has the opposition scored more than 2 goals. Yes, that includes the last two victories, but the overall trend has been that when Anaheim plays a good defensive game, they win.
Even in the last two games, the Ducks played well in front of solid defensive play. They were moving the puck out of the zone quickly, and then using a strong forecheck to keep pressure on the opposition. Our good defense keeps us playing in the other zone and grinding down opponents. Granted, this also leads to high offensive output. However, I feel like the Ducks use a strong defensive game in order to generate energy and build confidence. When they let go of that, the opposition seems to have no problem carrying the game and the counter punch almost never seems to come.
Murray can spend all the time he likes building the offense, but this team gets its motivation and results from defense. That's why they are overcoming the absence of an entire second line (Selanne-Koivu-Lupul) and still enjoying success. If Murray wants to do his team a favor, he needs to get some blueline help.
I agree that this shock and awe campaign is going to fail this team eventually. Despite the NHL selling an image of a faster, slicker offensive game, this is still a defensive league. The median GA/G is 2.78. The four most successful teams in the league occupy the four lowest GA/G stats, and the only outliers are Boston, with a penchant for losing close games, and Washington, who manages its median GA/G with the highest G/G in the league. Can the Ducks mimic the Caps? Not with this squad and not in this division.
Anaheim can't continue to allow 4 goals per game. Only five teams have a higher GA/G than Anaheim this year: Atlanta, Columbus, Edmonton, Carolina and Toronto. Basically, the bottom of each conference and Atlanta. If you can't defend your goal, you won't win in this league.
Murray is crazy to be asking after bit-part forwards. This team has had scoring problems, but statistically, that is not what keeps it in the company of the worst teams in the NHL.