Ducks Can Build Off Close Leafs Loss Tonight Against Jets

Jordan Reinhardt, The Hockey Writers

The second half of the season will be interesting to follow as far as Anaheim’s crease is concerned. With the team facing an uphill and unlikely climb back into playoff contention, does Dostál get more looks than Gibson? Does Gibson get moved to a contender? He’s been the subject of trade speculation for several seasons now, but has been the utmost professional and a pillar of consistency through it all. Don’t expect that to change as the rest of the season plays out.

Will Someone Besides Frank Vatrano and Mason McTavish Show Up on Offense?

Frank Vatrano, who was just named a first-time NHL All-Star, leads this team in goals and points with 18 and 27, respectively. McTavish sits second with 10 and 25. To put this into perspective, the Ducks have scored 10 goals in the six games since Dec. 18 (a win over the Detroit Red Wings). Vatrano has four of them. McTavish has four points, all assists, in that span and Brett Leason has two of the other six goals. It’s a small sample size, but it’s representative of the season-long theme that when Vatrano and McTavish don’t lead the way, the offense stalls.

Before Troy Terry’s strong December, Ryan Strome was third on the team in scoring with 20 points, which is a bit wild considering he hasn’t produced consistently since the first month of the season. What this all means is, the offense is not consistent enough. Not generating sufficient chances. Greg Cronin is simplifying his team’s game, and mixing the lines up, but they’re still struggling. The ability is there, but it’s not coming frequently enough. If more players get involved tonight, their chances to win increase significantly.

Will the Ducks Limit Their Trips to the Penalty Box?

Just as they have in most games, the Ducks took more penalties against the Maple Leafs than they drew. They served 10 minutes in minor penalties, while the Maple Leafs served four. It got the attention of Cronin, but he chose to address the negative effects of too much time shorthanded rather than addressing the discrepancy itself. Hockey is a zero-sum game in some sense because when the Ducks penalty-killers are on the ice, their skilled, playmaking forwards are not. Less time on offense means fewer chances to score. It’s an all too frequent theme in each game.

Enter key to victory number three: take fewer penalties than their opposition. It seems like a simple task, but it’s not so much. Teams often take penalties when they’re slower, less skilled, or when they’re sloppy. This describes the Ducks on most nights courtesy of their youth and general inexperience, but if they can keep their sticks in check, and maintain angles, gaps, and pace, they will play more at even strength, which increases their chances to mount offense of their own.

Duck to Watch: Trevor Zegras

Trevor Zegras is one of those guys that doesn’t kill penalties and suffers when his team plays too much shorthanded. There’s more time between shifts, which means he can’t develop a rhythm and his puck touches are few and far in between. It’s certainly not impossible for him to make an impact on the game, but it becomes less likely if the Ducks aren’t playing five-on-five or on the power play.

If that changes tonight, then he’s certainly a player to watch. In the five games since his return from injury on Dec. 23 against the Seattle Kraken, he has collected three points and 15 shots on goal. His production should increase as the season continues, and will always be a player to watch on any night given his star power.

Prediction: Ducks One Up Their Maple Leafs Performance and Collect a Win

The Ducks lost their first matchup against the Jets this season in disappointing, last-minute fashion. The sting of that defeat plus the closeness to victory the other night should propel them to an effort good enough to get the win tonight. Expect the Ducks’ stars to show up and get the job done.

Jordan Reinhardt, The Hockey Writers NHL,Anaheim Ducks,Auston Matthews

2024-01-05 15:25:00 , Yardbarker: Anaheim Ducks

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