Injuries is a word that could be used to describe the start to the Anaheim Ducks 2017-2018 season. The Ducks currently lead the league in man games lost at right around 100 through 18 games played, yet they still boast an 8-7-3 record. Being down your top two centers (Getzlaf and Kesler), a winger coming off a career year (Eaves), and having all 3 of their top defensemen out for at least 8 games (Fowler, Lindholm and Vatanen), it's safe to say the Ducks are facing some hardships. Even worse, (yes, the list goes on) Miller, Gibson, Bieksa, Kase and Ritchie have also missed time due to injuries.
The guys listed above are not only regulars, but many are difference makers. So how has this group managed to notch 8 Ws despite the litany of injuries? There are three main contributing factors here: First off, the emphasis this team has put on winning the neutral zone is paying dividends. There is nothing glamorous about the neutral zone. It boils down to hard work, and the effort here has been both an offensive and defensive catalyst. Secondly, some depth guys have seriously stepped up their game. Brandon Montour keeps firing his nasty slapper. Dude has already netted 5 goals, and is tied for 4th amongst NHL defensemen. Derek Grant, who was perceived as a fringe NHLer is proving to be anything but. Grant is playing the best hockey of his career, and it’s all because of his relentless execution. Make no mistake, the guy is finding a way to be very difficult to play against. Speaking of difficult players to play against, Josh Manson is the last player any team wants to see stepping over the boards. Manson is so smart, and is so difficult to play against; it's no surprise he’s Anaheim’s +/- leader. Then there’s the goaltending, which is the third contributing factor! Both John Gibson and Ryan Miller have stolen points for the Ducks this year! That’s how you know the goaltending’s been good! When your team’s goaltenders have stolen points!
With all the injuries to the Ducks, determination to win is proving to be the cornerstone of all three of these contributing factors. The transition game, players stepping up, and the goaltending has made Anaheim a mean handful. That is why they continue to find success dispute all the injuries. Tonight, the Ducks face a Florida Panthers team who embarrassed them earlier this year. Vengeance is on everyone’s mind, and I know I’m not the only one seething in anticipation.
Lastly, also tonight the Anaheim Ducks will honor Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya. The professionalism exemplified by this organization is always astounding, and I wholeheartedly look forward to a top-notch ceremony. Things kick-off at 4:45 P.M. sharp, so be sure to have your coffee ready, beer iced, and your food on its plate. Tonight is going to be awesome!