By Mike Olson
At the beginning of the 2015-2016 hockey season I made a bold prediction that the Anaheim Ducks would win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Early on it looked like I had jinxed the team and people were asking me why I picked them to win the cup with how terrible they were playing. I kept telling people to be patient because the team had a talented roster and their role players needed to play better. They also needed to figure out who their number one goalie would be as Frederik Andersen was not playing well.
The team seemed to be spiraling out of control and posted a pitiful record of 12-15-6 on December 22, 2015. At that point they found themselves in the cellar of the Pacific Division. The Ducks were one of the worst scoring teams in the league and were having trouble getting consistent goaltending. All of this led to a losing record and made it seem as though the NHL playoffs were out of reach.
However, since Christmas the Ducks have been on an absolute tear, posting an astonishing 25-4-2 record that has propelled the team to first place in the division (granted that division is definitely having a rough season with only the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks in the race). To put Anaheim’s recent great play into perspective, in the middle of January the Los Angeles Kings had a 16 point advantage over the Ducks. Anaheim has gone 3-1 against the Kings this season and seems to have confidence against the team that knocked the Ducks out of the playoffs two season ago.
Anaheim is currently on an 11 game winning streak in which the Ducks beat the Kings twice in six days. The team also has tied a franchise record by scoring a power play goal in 11 straight games. And the Ducks look to improve their already talented roster as they made a great trade before the trading deadline that sent Carl Hagelin to the Pittsburgh Penguins for David Perron. It’s a trade that has worked out great for the Ducks so far. In 21 games with his new team Perron has 8 goals, 10 assists, and a plus/minus of 14.
Now, I cannot stress to you enough how important goaltending is to a team. Early in the season the team had a goaltender carousel with Anton Khudobin (now with the San Diego Gulls), John Gibson, and Frederik Andersen. Andersen has taken over the reins and has gone 13-0-1 in the last 14 games. The fact that Andersen has gotten his confidence is not only good for himself but it has to be a breath of fresh air for the team. In my opinion Andersen is the best goalie the team has had in a long time. When he is hot it makes it nearly impossible to score on him and it could create a headache for the rest of the league. His goaltending was a big reason the Ducks were just a game away from winning the Western Conference last season.
If the Ducks can keep their winning ways, my preseason prediction of Lord Stanley returning to Orange County may not be so far-fetched.