Last season, the Anaheim Ducks relied too heavily on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to provide scoring. This season, they are the only two players who can't seem to find the back of the net.
It took the Ducks five games to earn their first points of the season. Friday's win over the Sharks was commendable, but the final score was deceiving. J-S Giguere once again stood on his head to keep the Ducks in the game, but this time he had a little help from the players in front of him.
Problem is, it was from the players directly in front of him. Two of the Ducks' goals were from defensemen—Francois Beachemin and Chris Pronger—and two were from checking forwards Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen (whom I called out last week).
Here are the Ducks' leading scorers. Rob Niedermayer is on pace for an 82-point season, and is the only Duck with more than one goal. His offensive ability has been underrated in the past couple of seasons, so I am not surprised to see him putting points on the board.
But I am surprised to see Getzlaf, Perry, Teemu Selanne, and Brendan Morrison with only one point apiece.
Chris Kunitz has zero points, and he also happens to be in the first season of a $3.75 million contract. His play in the past has been worthy of that type of money, but he was average last season and has been bad this season. Ducks GM Brian Burke has a history of offering large contracts to overachieving players, so hopefully this isn't another one of those cases.
Scouting the Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are making their first visit to Anaheim since Dec. 6, 2005, which resulted in a 6-2 victory for the Canes. The last time the Ducks beat the Hurricanes was before the lockout—a 2-1 victory on Feb. 4, 2004 in Anaheim.
The Canes started this season 2-0, but have since lost two in a row (one was in overtime, to the Kings). This isn't a team that the Ducks play very often, which means the game will either be wide open or overly tentative.
Ray Whitney and Eric Staal are the two offensive players that the Ducks will need to worry about, but the Canes have some secondary scoring threats who can burn you if they're left unattended. Matt Cullen should be familiar to Ducks fans, and he usually approaches 50 points per year.
The Canes also have Rod Brind'Amour, the guy who cheated Samuel Pahlsson out of the Selke two years ago. To his credit, Brind'Amour is a fitness freak who probably has the ability to play in the NHL until he's 50 years old, should he choose to do so.
The Ducks will need to keep an eye on Joni Pitkanen, a defenseman with above-average offensive vision. He has four points in four games, so the Ducks' wingers will need to tightly cover the point and keep pucks from getting back to him. He has a reputation for being overly aggressive and a defensive liability at times, which could be exploited.
The Gameplan and Predictions
The Ducks are better than the Hurricanes. But as the first four games have shown, that does not mean they will play better. They gave up 40 shots to the Sharks, which must come down to 25-30 if they want continued success and a victory on Sunday.
The Ducks' wingers need to cover the points to prevent pucks from getting to the Hurricanes' talented defense corps, but they cannot simultaneously leave the slot open. So far this season, the Ducks have not been able to balance their defensive coverage, and that needs to change.
Finally, the Ducks' scorers need to score goals. Getzlaf and Perry are overdue, Selanne should start getting some bounces, and the checking-line players need to stay hungry even if the scorers start doing their jobs. This will be the game where things start to come together.
Final Prediction: 4-2 Ducks. Goals from Perry (2), Getzlaf, and Montador.
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images