Monday, January 23rd, 2016 5:00 PM PST
Radio: AM 830, AnaheimDucks.com
Your Enemy: Arctic Ice Hockey
The roadie did not start the way the Anaheim Ducks wanted—when they were stunned by Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota Wild in a matter of two minutes during the third period. Less than pretty and not something you’d want to take into Winnipeg.
The Ducks are once again a tad muddled. A key component to the shutdown down is missing (Jakob Silfverberg - head injury)—so as of now, it looks like Logan Shaw will slot in his place. The good news is that John Gibson appears to be ok—he was on the ice at MTS Center and Jhonas Enroth was not recalled from San Diego. Gibson is expected to back up Jonathan Bernier as a precaution.
So, what does this mean? Well, boys and girls, let’s discuss the Anaheim Ducks in their current state. Oftentimes after a couple straight victories (OT included), we will try to or hope to forgot the larger underlying problems that have plagued teams all season long.
Take the Winnipeg Jets, who are currently sitting uncomfortably in 5th place in the Central Division after 49 games. They continue their 4-game homestand, the first and second they took from Arizona and St. Louis.
The Jets managed to not only win two wins at home this week, but they also came across a flurry of goals, scoring 5 and 6 respectively. Additionally, they have been 5-for-14 on the powerplay (35.7%) in their last four games.
All that being said, upon closer examination, the cracks that caused the Jets to fall into 5th still appear to be present. Defensive and goaltending problems continue to be the reasons for dropping games. Actually, the defensive problems of the Jets are somewhat similar to that of the Ducks in that: 1) There is a certain lack of defensive depth (i.e. Is anyone willing to argue that Kevin Bieksa is not a liability? Similarly, I know Ben Chiarot and Mark Stuart can be infuriating to see on the ice for Jets fans); 2) They set up a shitty defensive system.
So now back to the Ducks and the attempts to cover the cracks....
Defensively, the Anaheim Ducks are a mess. The Minnesota game is a perfect example of an epic defensive collapse. Firstly, kudos to Hampus Lindholm for stepping on the blue line (I’m not saying it’s all bad). But man oh man, Sami Sami Sami—you have been incredibly underwhelming this season. And I really can’t figure it out this role that Randy Carlyle wants you to play in his system. Sami Vatanen was given a nice little plump contract because the Ducks believed that he could be a difference maker on the back end. He was an aggressive, active, puck-moving, offensive-minded defenseman. Keyword: WAS. Just not seeing any of it this season. That badly mis-timed pinch that directly lead to Jason Zucker’s goal was just not the Sami we had grown to love.
It’s not only Sami though...take a look at the defensive pairings. It’s a bit odd and unbalanced don’t you think? The Holzer/Bieksa pairing baffles me. Defense has not been great this season.
But all on top of this—it seems to me that Randy Carlyle has a tendency to lean on his sit-back and take-the-hits defensive system when the Ducks manage to take a lead. A couple of goals and the Ducks turn into turtles, no matter how many more minutes are left in the game. Honestly, it is as if we are all holding our breaths for that tying goal in the third when the Ducks find themselves in the lead. It has been one heck of a rollercoaster season.
Sure, no team is perfect. But goodness gracious, if a non-hockey professional like me can see it, then shouldn’t the professional coaching staff of the NHL see it? Something isn’t working. Just as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—conversely it should be, “if it is broke, go fix it.”
The team has a lot of hairline fractures that are bound to break if they aren’t tended to and repaired for what it is. With the All-Star break this coming weekend, we are now coming into the second most pivotal half of the season, leading into playoffs. Sure the Ducks may be sitting on top of Pacific Division standings for now, but is this sustainable for a deep postseason run?