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Ducks Fixing Issues that Cut Short Playoff Run

Saturday, 08.30.2014 / 1:02 PM / News
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Ducks Fixing Issues that Cut Short Playoff Run
Despite putting up 116 points and claiming the top seed in the Western Conference last season, the Anaheim Ducks came up empty in their quest for the franchise\'s second Stanley Cup and spent the offseason addressing certain issues.
By Curtis Zupke | NHL.com

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

For a team that led the Western Conference with 116 points, the Anaheim Ducks had a lot of issues that came back to bite them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their power play was unacceptable, their lack of depth at center was exposed by the rival Los Angeles Kings, and defense and goaltending that had held up most of the season finally cracked.

General manager Bob Murray, who long had tried to upgrade the center position, landed Ryan Kesler in an offseason trade with the Vancouver Canucks to give Anaheim a 1-2 punch down the middle with Kesler and captain Ryan Getzlaf. Murray was willing to part with center and 22-goal scorer Nick Bonino to get Kesler, and he declined to re-sign veterans Saku Koivu and Mathieu Perreault.

Murray also signed Nate Thompson, who likely will center the third line.

Coach Bruce Boudreau is excited at the possibilities, but also sounded caution.

"We expect [Getzlaf-Kesler] to be as good a 1-2 center [combination] as there is and we can put him against any team that we match up," Boudreau said. "[But] I don’t look at it as, 'OK, all of a sudden we've gotten so much better.' We lost Nick Bonino, who scored 22 goals, and Mathieu Perreault scored 18 goals. We're hoping that Kesler and Nate Thompson can make that up. If they don't make that up they can do other things on the ice.

"I haven't seen anything yet. I want to see how it looks in training camp but I think it should be great."

A closer look at Kesler and Thompson reveals why Murray acquired them.

The Ducks were beaten badly in faceoffs against the Kings -- 123-84 in Games 5-7 of their Western Conference Second Round series and 262-214 overall. Kesler has a 52.9 career faceoff percentage and led the Canucks in faceoff wins in five of the past seven seasons. Thompson has a career faceoff percentage of 51.7 and won more than half of his faceoffs in five of the past six seasons.

Kesler and veteran left wing Dany Heatley, signed in July, also should improve an Anaheim power play that ranked 22nd in the League in the regular season at 16 percent. It improved in the playoffs, but the Ducks went 0-for-11 in Games 2-4 of the first-round series against the Dallas Stars and 0-for-8 in the final two games against the Kings.

DUCKS OFFSEASON OUTLOOK



2013-14 record: 54-20-8, 116 points; 1st in Pacific Division, 1st in Western Conference

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Lost to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in second round

Additions: C Ryan Kesler, D Clayton Stoner, LW Dany Heatley, C Nate Thompson, G Jason LaBarbera

Subtractions: RW Teemu Selanne, C Saku Koivu, G Jonas Hiller, LW Daniel Winnik, C Mathieu Perreault, C Nick Bonino, D Luca Sbisa, D Stephane Robidas

Pending free agents: None

Promotion candidates: RW Devante Smith-Pelly, RW Stefan Noesen, C Nicolas Kerdiles, C William Karlsson, C Louis Leblanc, D Mat Clark

Top 2014 NHL Draft picks: LW Nick Ritchie (first round, No. 10), D Marcus Pettersson (second round, No. 38), D Brandon Montour (second round, No. 55)

Kesler and Heatley said they are motivated with career reboots. Boudreau is positive too, but knows he has to integrate major pieces.

"Every time I've predicted it's going to be great, great, great, it doesn't turn out that way," Boudreau said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out. I want to see how it goes in training camp. I want to wait."

Los Angeles shredded Anaheim's defense in Game 7, when the images of Justin Williams backhanding in the puck from the slot and Jeff Carter blowing by defenseman Hampus Lindholm were seared into the memories of Ducks fans. Lindholm and Sami Vatanen were fine in the regular season, but the Ducks need bigger, physical shut-down types for playoff hockey; Murray came up with Clayton Stoner, who had a strong postseason with the Minnesota Wild and signed a four-year, $13 million contract with Anaheim.

Stoner ran out of opportunities in Minnesota, and he and the Ducks want a new start to pay off. They don't really have any young defensemen in their system ready to step into an NHL role.

Goalie John Gibson, 21, clearly was ready for the NHL when Boudreau gave him the nod late in the regular season, but he became human in the playoffs. Gibson and fellow rookie Frederik Andersen facilitated the end of Jonas Hiller's tenure in Anaheim, but the two are unproven and have a combined 11 games of experience in the playoffs. That's why Murray signed Jason LaBarbera for veteran presence.

Anaheim is coming off a second straight Game 7 collapse at home and still is far behind the Kings, but the Ducks have shown they are capable of the spectacular. With Teemu Selanne gone this is a new era for Anaheim, which lost lot of dressing room presence that perhaps Kesler and Heatley can help make up.

"We're losing a great, great ambassador [Selanne] to the Ducks, but the Ducks have lost guys like Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger in the past," Boudreau said. "We'll miss his presence. We'll miss his camaraderie. We'll just have to move on."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 35 22 8 5 101 96 49
2 CHI 33 22 9 2 102 67 46
3 STL 33 21 9 3 100 81 45
4 NSH 31 21 8 2 87 64 44
5 SJS 34 19 11 4 97 87 42
6 VAN 32 19 11 2 92 90 40
7 WPG 33 17 10 6 80 76 40
8 LAK 34 17 11 6 94 84 40
9 CGY 35 17 15 3 100 95 37
10 MIN 31 16 12 3 91 84 35
11 DAL 31 13 13 5 89 104 31
12 COL 32 11 13 8 83 100 30
13 ARI 32 11 17 4 74 104 26
14 EDM 33 7 20 6 69 110 20

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Getzlaf 34 12 25 7 37
R. Kesler 35 11 15 -2 26
S. Vatanen 35 9 15 -1 24
C. Perry 23 14 8 11 22
M. Beleskey 35 15 3 11 18
C. Fowler 34 3 14 1 17
J. Silfverberg 35 4 12 3 16
H. Lindholm 34 4 11 12 15
P. Maroon 27 2 12 -5 14
D. Smith-Pelly 31 4 8 3 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Gibson 2 2 0 .927 2.28
F. Andersen 18 5 4 .913 2.41

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