The Ducks finished the month of October with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins (a game that I missed because I was busy terrorizing the few kids that came by), and finished with a record of 10 wins, 3 losses, and one shootout loss in 14 games, good for 21 points. And before November starts up I thought it would be fun to go through the highs and the lows of the 1st month of the season for the Ducks.
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No question, the worst game for the Ducks during October was the 1st game against the Avs. The season did not start out well. The Ducks scored only 1 goal (only one other time this season have the Ducks been limited to just 1 goal) and allowed 6, the most in any game. The Ducks actually played well at the start and the 3rd line hit the post just a few minutes into the game. If that puck goes in, maybe the game would have gone differently. But it didn't, and the Ducks suffered their worst defeat of the season.
The Ducks best game was against Ottawa, when they won 4-1. While they had blasted the Rangers 6-0 a few days before that, the game against Ottawa was even more dominating. From start to finish, I have rarely seen a Ducks team simply outplay and dominate the opposition. The Ducks were just flying that night and was there best game in October. And to make the night even better, the Ducks wore their old Mighty Ducks jerseys, and they were great to see.
The biggest surprise during October was the play of the young Ducks. At forward, Etem, Holland, Maroon, Palmieri, Silfverberg, and Smith-Pelly all played major roles in helping the Ducks get wins. Etem has the teams only shorthanded marker on the season and his speed is just lethal. Holland has stepped in for both Koivu and Perreault, and while he isn't as good as either, he has potted a goal and played well. When he's had the chance, Maroon has not looked out of place skating with Getzlaf and Perry and had a 4 game point streak. Palmieri has had a slow start, but had 2 3rd period goals against the Flyers to secure the Ducks the win. Silfverberg started the year on fire, with 4 goals in his 1st 4 games as Duck. Smith-Pelly is averaging almost a point per game since he was called up. On defense, Vatanen and Lindholm have been exceptional. Vatanen isn't afraid to shoot the puck and it's only a matter of time before he starts finding the twine. For most of the season, Lindholm has been leading the team in +/-, only to be recently surpassed by Penner and has looked far better than I expected. And in net, Andersen has looked great and is undefeated in 3 games (2 starts).
The biggest worry for the Ducks during October was staying healthy. When a team is playing so many young players, it usually means that they are dealing with a variety of injuries, and the Ducks are no exception. Before training camp even started they lost Souray until sometime in December/January. During training camp, Sbisa went down. They've lost Koivu, Selanne, Penner (returned), Perreault (returned), Silfverberg, Beleskey, and Fasth. Even one of their prized prospects Stefan Noesen (picked up in the Bobby Ryan trade) is out with injury. There have been times where it has felt like the Ducks have lost a player in every game. The good news is that both Penner and Perreault have returned, and though they aren't at 100% (see Perreault's faceoff numbers against Boston), they have returned and are already contributing. Sbisa has been assigned to Norfolk on a conditioning stint, so he'll hopefully be back in the lineup soon, possibly by the end of this lengthy road trip. The Ducks have said that Beleskey should be good to go by the time of their next road trip. And Selanne should only miss a couple of weeks. But, there is no word on when Koivu will be ready, and it's unclear how injured Fasth is. At 1st it seemed not too bad, but he has since returned to Anaheim and appears to have suffered some kind of setback.
The other big worry for the Ducks in October was their special teams play. If the Ducks want to win another 10 games in November, or in any other month, their special teams have to improve. Their powerplay is dead last in the league, and their penalty kill isn't much better. And while both have shown signs of improvement, the fact remains that the Ducks special teams were just absolutely dreadful in the month of October, and they have to improve.
The Ducks have given themselves a great start to the season, now they have to build on it. If they can keep playing this well at 5 on 5 and improve their special teams, they will remain near the top of the league standings. Getting a healthy team back on the ice will help too. But that is also going to make Boudreau's life difficult. The kids have played well enough to stay in Anaheim, and some of them undoubtedly will stay, but not all will. Still, it's a good problem for a coach and a team to have, too many players playing good enough to be in every night. All things considered, the Ducks are in a good position as they begin their 2nd month of play. They have given themselves a solid foundation to start the season, now they have to build on it.
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