The Anaheim Ducks have held a playoff position for much of the 2018-19 season, but their place in the standings has been the biggest mirage in the NHL.
Their success this season has been driven almost entirely by the play of their goalies (John Gibson and Ryan Miller) and has masked the numerous flaws that exist on this team, from the lack of depth, to the injuries, to the fact their core players are getting older and declining, to the fact they get absolutely caved in almost every night on the shot and scoring chance charts.
Teams like this eventually crumble. They always crumble. Sometimes it takes a few weeks. Sometimes a few months. Sometimes it does not happen until the next season. But it eventually always happens because the goalies, no matter how good they are, can not continue to play that flawlessly for that long.
The dam always breaks, the bubble always bursts, or whatever other cliche you want to use to refer to it.
For the Ducks, that time has come.
After getting blown out by the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, the Ducks have now dropped eight games in a row, find themselves barely hanging on to a playoff spot, and have been outscored by a jaw-dropping 23 goals on the season. That is one of the worst marks in the league and puts them with the NHL’s worst teams.
It is almost impossible to be that bad when you’re getting the level of goaltending they are getting this season (among the absolute best in the NHL!)
They are falling fast in the standings and in this week’s PHT Power Rankings.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning — Their 5-2 loss in San Jose was their first loss in regulation since Nov. 27. It happened on Jan 5. That is a hell of a long time to go between regulation defeats. They are just on an unbelievable roll right now, thanks in large part to Nikita Kucherov‘s offensive dominance. They are on a tier all alone this week.
Contenders making their climb
2. Vegas Golden Knights — They have won six in a row, are 17-3-3 in their past 23 games, and they have the dominant underlying numbers to back up their record. They are good. Legitimately good.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins — Matt Murray is back to playing like the franchise goalie the Penguins need him to be. Combine that with the performance of stars like Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang (who has been Norris worthy this season) and you have a team that is 14-5-1 in its past 20 games and has caught up to the leaders in their division.
The rest of the contenders
4. Toronto Maple Leafs –– Imagine how good the offense will be once William Nylander starts to get going.
5. Washington Capitals — Their power play has hit a pretty big slump lately but I am one million percent confident that is not something that is going to last.
6. Calgary Flames — Johnny Gaudreau just keeps getting better. He is on pace for 118 points this season and is the engine that drives this team.
7. San Jose Sharks — On Dec. 1 they lost their fourth game in a row to drop to 12-10-5 on the season. Since then they have gone 11-3-2 and their stars on the blue line are really starting to dominate like we expected. Do not sleep on this team in the Western Conference.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets — This is a really good team as it stands right now and I still feel like some of their best players (Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Sergei Bobrovsky) haven’t played their best hockey yet this season. What happens when they do?
9. Winnipeg Jets — Losing Nikolaj Ehlers will be a big loss, but they still have one of the best collections of forwards in the NHL. They have hit a bit of a wall recently, but they will be fine.
10. Nashville Predators — They are starting to get healthy (Welcome back, Filip Forsberg) so we will once again get to see what this team is capable of when it has all of its key players in the lineup.
Right on the edge
11. New York Islanders — Every team that outperforms its shot and scoring chance metrics thinks it has stumbled on the secret. They haven’t. They just have great goaltending. The Islanders right now are getting great goaltending.
[Related: Goalies are the difference for Islanders]
12. Boston Bruins — Patrice Bergeron has nine points in seven games since returning to the lineup. The Bruins have won five of those games. Getting key players back in the lineup helps.
14. Dallas Stars — Even with their ugly loss to Winnipeg on Sunday and all of the drama surrounding this team because of their CEO and owner, they are still 5-1-1 in their past seven games and hanging around in the playoff race. The top line is still carrying the offense.
15. Carolina Hurricanes — They are on one of those streaks where they start to play up to their potential and make you think they are about ready to turn the corner. Will this be the time it happens?
16. Minnesota Wild — That 13-game stretch where they lost 10 games really put them in a hole. They are trying to dig out of it with wins in three of their past four.
17. Buffalo Sabres — That big cushion they built for themselves earlier in the year is really starting to slip away from them. They need to get more out of their forwards other than Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner.
18. Colorado Avalanche — Speaking of a team that needs more out of players outside of their top line … the Avalanche have lost 12 out of 15 and are now all of a sudden on the playoff bubble despite having three of the best offensive players in the league. Not a great sign!
19. Anaheim Ducks — This is, quite simply, not a very good hockey team.
The playoffs look like a long shot
21. Vancouver Canucks — The standings say they open the week just one point out of a playoff spot, but they have already played 45 games this season, way more than everyone else around them in the standings. Their points percentage is in the bottom-six of the NHL. Once every one around them catches up in games played their playoff chances will look a lot worse.
22. New York Rangers — It should be another busy year for this team at the trade deadline. No playoffs in their immediate future and a few veteran players that could be attractive for contenders.
23. Edmonton Oilers — Just speaking in hypotheticals here, but how many more seasons like this before Connor McDavid gets fed up and demands his way out of Edmonton? It has to happen at some point, right? If this circus continues around him?
Lose For Hughes
24. New Jersey Devils — Rookie netminder Mackenzie Blackwood has been a pleasant development for a team that has had a constant hole in net this season.
25. Chicago Blackhawks — The Blackhawks should be highly encouraged by what they have seen from Dylan Strome so far. He is up to 14 points in 20 games and scored the game-winning goal in Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
26. Los Angeles Kings — Even Anze Kopitar is having a disappointing season for this team. It is almost as if they are prohibited from having good offensive players.
27. Arizona Coyotes — You can not question the effort, but the talent is just not there yet. It really hurts when they are down to backup goalies on top of that.
28. St. Louis Blues — They took a run with this core and it doesn’t look like it is going to work. Like the Blackhawks and Kings, this is a team that looks like it might be in need of a teardown and rebuild.
29. Philadelphia Flyers — They’ve fired the coach, fired the general manager, fired assistants (coach, GM), called up the hot-shot goalie prospect, and had the players-only meeting after another loss. They have played every card a bad hockey team can play in a season.
30. Detroit Red Wings — Every year some rebuilding teams that are short on talent overachieve early in the year and then hit an extended slump that brings them back down to where everyone expected them to be. The Red Wings are in the middle of that slump right now.
31. Ottawa Senators — The problem with their spot in the “lose for Hughes” category is their 2019 first-round draft pick belongs to the Colorado Avalanche.