The Anaheim Ducks put together an impressive winning streak last week, but it ended this weekend. Losses to the Stars and Panthers have left the Ducks frozen at fourth in the Western Conference, as the Sharks and Red Wings continue their winning ways and the Stars inch closer to the top.
One of the more boring Ducks-Kings meetings took place last Wednesday. Chris Pronger scored a goal 40 seconds into overtime to end the snoozer of a game. There was sloppy play on offense and little emotion—there was only one brief scuffle in a matchup that usually features several fights.
With four goals and 10 assists to his credit, Pronger is on pace to have a monster of a season offensively. His defensive play has been much better than it was last year, but he hasn't had much support from his defensive partners, more on that soon.
The next evening, the Ducks hosted the St. Louis Blues and came away with a 5-2 victory. Goals from Gezlaf, Perry, and Selanne kept the NHL's hottest tandem on a roll, though that streak would end a few days later.
The Blues' Andy McDonald scored a goal against his former team, which woke up some boo birds after it was announced that Paul Kariya was credited with the assist.
The Ducks do not match-up very well against the Stars. Almost every shot they take is blocked before it reaches Marty Turco, and their forechecking strategy is laid to waste. This occurs because every time the Ducks attempt to dump the puck, Turco leaves his crease and recovers it.
Against virtually every other team, the Ducks can send the puck deep and create turnovers in the offensive zone. Even if they don't gain possession of the puck, they can still check the opposing defensemen as they are recovering the puck, which is an effective strategy to wear the opposing team down.
This does not work against the Stars, because Turco can effectively function as a non-checkable defenseman. Notice how he cleverly turns his body when an attacking player approaches him. There is absolutely nothing illegal about what he does, but he must be frustrating to play against.
I personally would not be opposed to a rule that allows players to check the goaltender if he ventures behind the net, especially since goaltenders are apparently allowed to check opposing forwards. There was a play in last year's playoffs where Turco checked a Ducks player against the sideboards, but no penalty was called.
The Ducks ended up losing to the Stars on Friday, 5-2. There were few positives from this game, one of them being Brendan Morrison notching his first goal of the season. However, he promptly followed that up with a bad game against Florida.
Occasionally, there comes a time when no matter what you throw at the net, nothing goes in. That happened on Sunday for the Ducks, as Craig Anderson made 44 saves to lead the Florida Panthers to a 3-1 victory.
Anderson's play was impressive, but a bit awkward. On the Ducks' telecast, Brian Hayward suggested that Anderson was battling to make saves all night. He was definitely scrambling for rebounds, which he coughed up very often, but I wouldn't use the word battling to describe his play.
To me, it looked like Anderson was having trouble staying on his feet. He looked very uncomfortable with traffic and contact, and he spent much of the game on his rear end. His saves were not of the Hasek-esque acrobatic variety—it looked more like he was constantly losing his balance and the pucks just happened to keep hitting him.
Lucky or not, he deserves credit for an outstanding performance. David Booth also earns accolades for scoring a hat-trick, which is the second game in a row that a player has scored a hat-trick against the Ducks.
Brendan Morrison had a few good chances in this game, including a nice pass to Francois Beauchemin in the slot. Away from the puck, Morrison looked bad once again. We're about a quarter of the way through the season, and this acquisition simply isn't working out for the Ducks...
Which leads me to believe that Brian Burke is going to make a serious pitch for Mats Sundin. Check the Ducks page on B/R this Wednesday for an editorial about the possibility of acquiring Sundin.
Image: Courtesy of Anaheim Ducks official website