The Ducks finished the month of November with a 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, a game that they were outplayed for the 1st 40 minutes of the game but utilized a great 3rd period to get the extra point. Overall, the Ducks played 15 games in November and had a record of 8-4-3, good for 19 points. As I did with Otober, I'll go through the highs and lows of the previous month of the Ducks season.
The Ducks had a couple of dud games this past month, but the worst game came in a 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was one of 3 games that the Ducks only scored 1 goal in, and the 5 goals were the 2nd most that the team gave up this past month (only against Dallas did the Ducks give up more goals in a 6-3 loss). That being said, a lot of the Ducks were sick with the flu for this game and the team was clearly no where near 100%. The Ducks were not healthy and it showed in their play. They simply looked awful on the ice, easily among the worst games that I have seen them play in a long time.
I'm going to cheat a bit and pick the 2 best games for the Ducks in November, simply because I think both games were exceptional and deserve to be mentioned. The 1st game was the Ducks 1-0 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 8 days after being embarrassed, the Ducks were looking to get revenge, and the Bolts were looking to continue their strong play. What we witnessed was one of the best goaltending duels that I have seen in a long time. Ben Bishop and Jonas Hiller were just absolutley stellar, combine that with the late game heroics of Ryan Getzlaf scoring the gamewinning goal with seconds left in overtime, and you have the recipe for a truly amazing game. The other game worth mentioning was the Ducks 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes are one of the strongest teams in the Pacific Division, and had yet to lose at home in regulation this season. The Ducks victory marked the 1st time this season that their desert rivals left home without any points, a huge moment in the still young season.
The biggest surprise for the Ducks during November was how good their record has been despite their absurd amount of injuries. Of the Ducks top 6 blueliners, 4 of them are on the shelf. Only Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy are currently healthy, and both are playing above and beyond what is expected of them. Combine that with phenomenal rookie performances from Hampus Lindholm (if he keeps playing like this, he will get Calder considerationg) and Sami Vatanen (who leads the defense with 3 goals scored). After that, there is journeyman Mark Fistric playing in the 5th spot, and then either Nolan Yonkman or Alex Grant (who scored a goal in his 1st game!) to round out the defense. On paper it's certainly far from a good defense, and there were stretches in some games where the defense has played as bad as you would expect, but there have also been stretches where these players have played great for the Ducks. And because of the strong play of their defense, the Ducks have been able to continue to improve their record through the past turbulent month. While their division lead is gone, they are still among the league leaders in points and have positioned themselves nicely 2 months into the season.
As with October, the biggest cause for concern for the Ducks over the last month has been staying healthy. Their was a nasty flu bug that went around and nearly crippled this team for a couple of games. Combine that with the blueline being decimated (Souray, Allen, Sbisa, and Beauchemin) and the forwards being hurt as well (Silfverberg is still MIA, and Beleskey and Koivu both missed over half of the month because of injury, and even Getzlaf was out for a few games) and Fasth has missed several games do to injury as well, the Ducks are a team that has lost well over 100 man games to injury. Hopefully the Ducks can start getting healthy as December begins, because they are going to need all hands on board in order to stay near the top of the league standings.
The Ducks also saw a nice improvement in their special teams play. After an absolutely dreadful start to the season, the Ducks powerplay clicked at about 25% in November, and their penalty kill fended off about 85% of the Ducks penalties. Much better numbers than the 1st month of the season.
If the Ducks can get healthy, the rest of the NHL better look out. This is a team led by a dominant top line (who knew Penner could score like this?! And Getzlaf and Perry are tearing up opposing teams on a nightly basis) with good scoring throughout the lineup. Their isn't a true secondary threat (that will hopefully change when Silfverberg gets healthy) but the likes of Bonino, Cogliano, and Fowler all provided some nice secondary scoring that month. I don't know the exact numbers, but in previous season about 75% of teams that are in the playoff picture when Thanksgiving rolls around make the playoffs. While nothing is certain in sports and new things happen every year, the Ducks have set themselves up quite nicely through the 1st 2 months of the season, and they will hopefully continue to do so as December starts out.