Offense from the defense. It’s been a huge part in the surprising success of the Anaheim Ducks, who will play host to the Calgary Flames on Friday.
Ducks defensemen have scored 19 goals already this season, second in the NHL behind the Colorado Avalanche (21), after that crew managed 18 goals in 56 games last season.
Anaheim’s blue-line brigade scored three of the goals when the Ducks claimed a 6-5 win over the visiting Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, their second straight victory and third in four outings.
“It’s something that we talked about coming into the year,” Anaheim defenseman Josh Manson said. “We wanted to have our (defensemen) join the rush being the fourth man and creating that extra layer of offense.”
The Ducks, who were expected to be near the bottom of the standings but have been one of the league’s surprise squads, have shown plenty of layers in their successful first quarter of the season.
Even though Troy Terry (15 goals in 23 games this season after scoring 15 in his first 129 NHL games over the previous four seasons) and Trevor Zegras (12 points in the past nine games) are enjoying breakout seasons, the last game was a perfect example of a team victory. Six different players lit the lamp against the Golden Knights.
“We don’t want to be a one-trick pony, that’s for sure,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “We can’t just have it from one of our defensemen or two of our defensemen and one of our lines. We have to find a way to consistently have different people on that scoreboard.”
The Ducks will need to be at their best when the Flames come calling. Calgary, which skated to a 3-2 win over the host Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, sits atop the Pacific Division standings.
The Flames are on a 7-1-2 run overall and are the only team in the league with at least 10 road victories. It’s a big difference from last year’s team that went 11-15-2 on the road.
On top of their defensive prowess — the Flames are the league’s best defensive team and have allowed two or fewer goals in nine of their past 10 games — they are enjoying big performances from the supporting cast of late.
For starters, Andrew Mangiapane has netted 15 goals in 14 road clashes, becoming only the third active player to score 15 goals through his first 14 road games in a season.
Matthew Tkachuk and Milan Lucic, who both scored Thursday, each have three goals in their past four games.
“It’s more than goals. It’s gotta be more than goals,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter replied when Tkachuk’s 11 goals on the season was mentioned. “If it was just goals and assists, then our team is not going to get better. He’s playing a more complete game and manages his game better. That’s the difference.”
Lucic’s success this season after a few struggling years can’t be overlooked. A five-time 20-goal scorer, Lucic is on pace for that standard, having scored seven times in 23 outings. He has a new weapon in his arsenal, firing shots between goaltenders’ legs instead of looking to pick the corners all the time.
“It’s a high-percentage shot,” Lucic said. “If you miss, it’s off the pads and it stays alive. You get what I’m trying to say? Rather than the ones that go in the glove or all that type of stuff. It just seems to be working. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix.”
–Field Level Media