The Week That Was
The building talking point for the Anaheim Ducks has been, 'the team is playing better, the results just aren't coming' after dropping the three games completing the Central Division road trip.
There was the 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, then a blown three-goal lead in a 4-3 defeat the following night against the Dallas Stars, before closing the trip out with an even more disappointing 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues thanks to a ridiculous ricochet goal. Anaheim got some of the good feeling back with a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators in their return to Honda Center on Sunday.
Lets put that line of thinking to the test with a little deeper look at the even strength shooting numbers from the week:
The Frederik Andersen effect has been a big part of why the Ducks have appeared better in recent games, as they've allowed opposition to drive majority of play against them in three of the four. A point that's looking up for Anaheim defensively is that, save the Dallas game, the team is appearing to be getting better at limiting high danger scoring chances while still allowing far too many scoring chances in general.
A reason why Anaheim has been able to survive and remain in games with Andersen starting is he's been the 7th best goalie in the league at stopping high danger shots at even strength, making saves at an .897 clip on shots from directly in front of the net. Andersen's .935 all situation save percentage is fifth amongst goalies with more than five games played, while his .942 SV% at even strength ranks seventh.
To gain a greater appreciation for Andersen, lets look at where the shots are coming from this season. Numbers on the hextally represent relation to league average; numbers higher than one mean shots in that area are above league average, below one are lower than league average. Charts on the right are the Ducks defensive zone:
Now for comparison, here's the full chart from last season:
Anaheim is giving up the slot and middle of the ice in the defensive zone through the first month to a much higher degree than all of last season. Particularly distressing is how far above league average the shots are coming from directly in front of the crease, while the right side of the zone has been much more open as well.
A glance at the left chart for the Anaheim offensive production shows problems as well. While the Ducks have done well getting directly to the front of the net, there's a huge drop-off in shots between the circles. That's the high-traffic area that head coach Bruce Boudreau has referred to, and the Ducks as of yet have not figured out how to consistently attack with new personnel this season. With so much of the shots coming from the peripheries, it explains why just 38.5% of the Ducks shot attempts are scoring chances.
With a greater portion of shots coming from outside danger areas through the first month, it spells out why Anaheim has struggled scoring goals this season. On the defensive side of this ,while high danger scoring chances appear to be coming down, the Ducks are still allowing too great a percentage of shot attempts (47.6%) as scoring chances. Andersen deserves much of the credit in the opening month for keeping the Ducks in games; it's no coincidence that he started all three games where Anaheim 'looked better' in defeat as well as the win.
The Week Ahead
After facing three games in the span of four nights to end the road trip, the Ducks playing the one game against Nashville on Sunday in a five day stretch is a welcome respite. Wednesday it kicks back in to gear with the first of three games in four nights against the Florida Panthers, before a back-to-back Friday and Saturday featuring the Columbus Blue Jackets at home and a trip to SAP Center to face the San Jose Sharks.
The Panthers are in the thick of the race in the Atlantic Division, thanks to a strong start from Roberto Luongo, and ageless play from Jaromir Jagr. Florida is 2-2-0 against the Western Conference, and speed and skill of youngsters like Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, and Jonathan Huberdeau gave the Ducks fits last season.
Columbus picked up their first two wins of the season with new head coach John Tortorella behind the bench, but they still remain the biggest tire fire in the league. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has played like a lowly gumshoe, nowhere near his 'number one cop on the force' designation of previous seasons. Anaheim will catch the Blue Jackets on the second leg of a back-to-back, as they face Los Angeles the night before.
San Jose has been dealing with injuries of late, but enter the week in the third and final guaranteed Pacific Division playoff spot, six points clear of the Ducks. It's a proverbial four-point game, and will the be second of four meetings between the teams this season. With Anaheim having played just three division games so far, this one is huge to continue the effort to climb in to playoff seating.