Series Preview: Ducks Special Teams
If there's a place where the Anaheim Ducks can make everyone in the league bow down, it's in this category.
There are few things more frustrating that playing a team that knows they have a great power play. Things start to go bad? Draw a penalty. Game is getting out of reach? Draw a penalty. Need a goal in the third period? Draw a penalty. It's tough to watch. We've all lived in a world where Vancouver rode this strategy to a few series wins.
It's effective. And that's the bad news.
They're the best at converting power plays. They're the best at killing penalties. Let's get that out of the way early.
But let's also take this tiny grain of salt, three of the five teams that gave up the most goals while shorthanded reside in the Pacific Division; and the Sharks scored more goals with the man advantage, so it's not like those atrocious PK numbers are just from the Ducks.
Still.... trading penalties with the Ducks isn't a great idea. Here is their penalty chart:
At this point, I'm almost pulling for David Perron to come back.
The Ducks scored 55 power play goals this year, and 11 of them were off the stick of Corey Perry. Ryan Getzlaf had 16 assists on the power play alone. Perron doesn't get a lot of time on the power play, but he'd been effective when given the chance.
Again, Getzlaf and Perry are good. Not a shocker.
What is a little surprising is that the rest of the Ducks' power play production is spread very evenly. The Ducks use big bodies to fight for the precious spots on the ice, and throw pucks at the net. It's simple, effective hockey. It's worked for generations.
The Ducks' PK also has their strong points, and that's Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, and Josh Manson. Yes, Josh Manson. Simon Despres has also been a pleasant surprise on the PK.
But there are some spots where the Preds can win a battle. Kevin Bieksa hasn't been outstanding on the PK, as the Ducks are nearly twice as likely to allow a goal with him on the ice compared to Manson. Andrew Cogliano is nearly twice as likely to allow high-danger scoring chances than Ryan Kesler.
What does this all mean?
It's possible that the second power play unit with Filip Forsberg and company could have a good matchup. Kesler and Silfverberg will play the bulk of the PK minutes, and John Gibson has shown to be a good goalie while his team is shorthanded.
When it comes to beating the Ducks and their power play, the strategy needs to be to protect Pekka Rinne, and keep him in the crease. Too many times this year he's came out too far to challenge shooters, and left a yawning net behind him on the PK.
The Ducks are great at special teams, there's no doubt there. But no team in the league took more penalties than the Ducks, and the Ducks drew the 5th most penalties against their opponents. Nashville took the 12th fewest penalties, and drew the 11th most. That's what having the puck does.