The beginning of this season has not been kind to the Anaheim Ducks. They have racked up injuries beyond belief including losing Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg for 5 games each, Corey Perry for 11 games, Cam Fowler for 12 games, Hampus Lindholm for 13 games, Ryan Getzlaf for 24 games, Ryan Kesler for 37 games, and Patrick Eaves for 41 games. That list includes the top two defensemen in time on ice last year for the Ducks as well as every forward in the top six going into this season. Injuries have devastated this team, accounting for 17 points lost in the standings according to Man Games Lost, and yet they are still in the playoff race.
NHL top 5, points in standings lost due to injured players (Lost-ps metric, lost points in standings due to injured players)
1 VEG 18.8 points lost
2 ANA 17.2
3 BOS 9.6
4 STL 7.8
5 NSH 7.1https://t.co/lOBgTdBdSp
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) January 9, 2018
The Ducks managed a 16-13-8 record through their major injury troubles, which ended when Kesler returned on December 27th. At the moment the only two Ducks players left on injured reserve are Mike Liambas and Eaves. Liambas is a depth option who played seven games this season, but would be reassigned to the AHL upon his return, and Eaves will not be back for at least the rest of the season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Who the Ducks are now is who they are going to be for the rest of the season unless General Manager Bob Murray trades for outside help.
However, outside help will not be needed. The current Ducks roster is almost the exact same roster that came within two games of a Stanley Cup Final appearance. They are made up of the same core that has won the Pacific Division for five straight seasons. Nobody should be counting them out of the race.
The Ducks showed signs of just how good they are early in season, but without their most important players they could not consistently get the job done. Now that everyone is back and ready to go, other teams in the Pacific need to watch their backs. The Ducks now sit a single point out of both the third divisional playoff spot and the second Western Conference wild card spot with the season only half over. The Ducks are no stranger to first half stumbles either; in the 2015/16 season they were in 5th place in the Pacific after 43 games but still won the division by season’s end.
Getzlaf has played like a man possessed in his limited time. Despite missing more than half of the team’s games he is second on the team in points with 24 in 19 games. Getzlaf’s 1.26 points per game rate puts him third in the league, and his shooting percentage is right at his career average which means there might be no slowing down. He has had seven multi-point games while going pointless in only six. Getzlaf is showing why he is the captain of this team, and if they make the playoffs he deserves a large majority of the praise.
Other players that deserve cheers for their play so far are the goalies John Gibson and Ryan Miller, Rickard Rakell, and Josh Manson. Gibson and Miller have combined for a save percentage of .926 and three shutouts even though both have faced their own minor injury troubles. It was due to the goaltending that the Ducks have managed to stay alive in the standings when the team lacked its most important skaters.
Rakell and Manson were the team’s best skaters during the first few months. Rakell had to spend some time as a center even though he transitioned to a winger in the past couple seasons, and leads the team in scoring with 31 points in 38 games. Manson has had to get used to being on the top defensive pairing and still leads the team in total time on ice. The Ducks have outscored their opponents 33-19 when he is on the ice despite Manson starting 60% of his shifts in the defensive zone. Without these players stepping up, as well as others like Derek Grant, the Anaheim Ducks’ only company in the standings would be the Arizona Coyotes.