The Florida Panthers five-game homestand rolls on with tonight's rematch against the Anaheim Ducks, who snatched a shootout win from the Cats a couple weeks ago. Anaheim Calling's associate editor Kyle Nicolas fills us in on some of what's been going on with the Ducks since then.
After edging the Panthers in a shootout, Anaheim reeled off two more victories to build a tidy four-game winning streak. However, with just one win in their last four, the team seems to fallen back into somewhat of a funk. What is keeping the Ducks from consistently winning games?
The Ducks have started to find a little bit of success and put some points together largely because of the fact that they've started scoring goals again. Not in the magnitude or with the consistency as they did last season (with them still being league-worst in goals  and 2nd to last in shooting-percentage [5.1%]) but the offense is starting to carry play and earn a decent number of chances on its own. In fact since the Ducks and Panthers last met, the Ducks have scored 18 of their 34 goals on the season and still only shot 6.5% while earning 54.6% of all shot attempts at 5 on 5. So really the team could be even better than they are, they're just not getting those bounces they were last season. Hate to throw the big nasty "regression" word out there but it seems to be plaguing the team worse than injuries right now.
I put together a really detailed list a few games back after a particularly frustrating loss to the Arizona Coyotes that went into some pretty heavy detail as to what the team is doing pretty poorly this season, and while some of the items could be considered side effects of others, there is a lot to work on for this squad. In particular, their offense is not getting nearly as many high-danger scoring chances this season as they were last year (9.6 per 60 minutes this year as opposed to 10.7 last year), due largely in part to what I believe is a combination of other teams being better able to prepare for the team after watching them the last couple seasons, and some guys just not really seeming to find a spot in the lineup where they really blend. Combine that with a defense that has become a lot leakier in its own end and gives up far more chances this season than it has since Randy Carlyle was the team's head coach, and you can see why this team is suddenly losing a lot more than it's winning.
There is a lot of hope for this team still, largely due to the fact that the Pacific Division is a brightly burning trash heap of crappy hockey this season, but until the Ducks at least improve on some of those things on that list, they're going to struggle mightily.
Oh, also, they're really really bad at the new 3-on-3 thing. That change has not helped them at all in the slightest.
Going back to that November 4th tilt that Florida was seconds away from winning: What positive and negative impressions did you take away from the game regarding the Panthers?
That game was a big one for the Ducks in that it was the first time this season where they've had to chase a team down and come from behind to win and they succeeded in doing so. So much of what had made this team magical for the last couple seasons was a willingness to believe that they could win any game they fell behind in and they consequently led the league in both one-goal wins and come-from-behind victories last season. This year has been exactly the opposite, as it seems night after night they just are unable to find the clutch goal that they need to either squeak out a point in a one-goal game or to seal it in regulation. So when that goal went in with mere seconds left, it was not only relief for the entire fanbase to see the team finally succeed in chasing down a team that got ahead of them, but it also came in the form of Corey Perry's first goal of the season. And believe me if you would have told any of us that Perry would have zero goals in October we would have laughed you away. Despite the fact that the Panthers got ahead of the Ducks on some pretty atrocious defensive lapses (story of the season so far, really), it was a game where really the Ducks deserved to at least get a point, and it was a sort of vindication to finally get two, particularly after the Panthers absolutely shelled the Ducks last season, scoring 12 goals in the two meetings. Believe me that absolute turd of a season series has stuck long in our memories.
How has captain Ryan Getzlaf looked since returning from the four-game absence due to the appendectomy? On the surface (when he puts up points - the team wins) his play seems to be mirroring that of his club's.
Getzlaf had some of his best games of the season immediately following that appendectomy but he's since come back to Earth. He only has two points in his last five games, both of them coming in the team's last win, a 4-1 decision over the Carolina Hurricanes, in which Getzlaf got his first goal of the season into the empty net. Perhaps the best thing for his game so far this season has interestingly enough come with the recent experiment of playing center Rickard Rakell out of position as the left winger on the top line as they've become possession monsters as a result (a testament to how talented Rakell actually is); Getzlaf's possession in the last two games has skyrocketed to 55.0% at 5 on 5 with Rakell on his wing. He's still not fully there yet and while noted twin Corey Perry has seemingly awoken from his slumber with four goals in the six games between when these two last saw each other, Getzlaf still seems to be struggling this season. Some people speculate that perhaps his hernia which he opted not to get surgery on after the playoffs ended might be flaring up again, but if that's the case nobody's made any mention of it.
But that being said it's been obvious for years that this is Getlzaf's team. When he's on fire and playing his best, the team follows and goes on torrential scoring runs and wins games in absolutely dominant fashion. When he slumps, the team stutters. Part of that is because of what kind of an immensely vital role he plays on the top line which for years has done so much of Anaheim's scoring every season, but also because the entire locker room looks up to him as their leader. When he gets frustrated and starts throwing punches, the team joins in on the parade to the penalty box, usually en route to an embarrassing loss. When he leads by example and takes command of a game like he and so few others truly can, he's nearly unstoppable. Sadly we're yet to see much of that latter version of Getzlaf yet this season. That could change at any moment, but I think it goes without saying that we as fans are getting a little antsy waiting for it now that we're almost 2/3 of the way through November
We would like to thank Kyle for dropping by ye olde Litter Box to chat with us. You can give him a twitter follow at @ACKyleNicolas. Check out Anaheim Calling for more Ducks - Panthers pregame goodness.