Associated Press

The bleeding ends: Ducks finally halt record losing streak

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The agony is over.

The Anaheim Ducks have won for the first time in 2019 (and the first time since a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 17), snapping a 12-game losing skid that earned the title of a franchise record.

Yes, the bleeding has ended, due in large part to John Gibson, who has been the one constant during the winless stretch. Gibson stopped 37 shots, including 10 on the power play for the shutout in a 3-0 win against the Minnesota Wild.

The Ducks got goals from Adam Henrique, Brian Gibbons and Rickard Rakell.

Devin Shore, who the Ducks picked up earlier this week in a trade that sparked the first of four in the span of 72 hours, added an assist. Derek Grant, who the Ducks traded for in a flurry of deals late Wednesday, played 16:21.

While Bob Murray’s moves didn’t dent the scoresheet too much, they certainly sent a message to the locker room. To be fair to the Ducks, they had been playing better as of late, only to have a couple games slip through the cracks, including a 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets and a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that should have been an Anaheim win if not for an epic implosion.

But that’s all history now with the losing streak coming to an end.

The Ducks won six of their first seven games in December and still sit in a three-way tie for the last wildcard spot in the Western Conference. With Gibson’s Vezina-caliber season so far, and the fact that a lot of teams in the West seem disinterested in distancing themselves from one another, the Ducks have as good a chance as any to sneak in the backdoor.

Breaking that losing streak was the start. What happens over the next few weeks is the next test.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Red Wings push Ducks’ skid to 12 games

Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray gave head coach Randy Carlyle (the deadly?) vote of confidence and shipped Andrew Cogliano out of town, but playing against the struggling Detroit Red Wings did little to change this team’s path.

Despite Rickard Rakell scoring the opening goal, the Ducks dropped their 12th game in a row, as the Red Wings fired off three unanswered goals to win 3-1 on Tuesday.

Since beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 to improve to 19-11-5 on Dec. 17, the Ducks have gone 0-8-4 to slide down to 19-19-9, leaving them outside of the West’s eight playoff spots, and in a position of significant uncertainty in the conference’s clogged bubble races. So this could be a full month-long losing streak if the Ducks can’t beat the Minnesota Wild in their next game on Thursday, Jan. 17.

This wasn’t exactly the effort of a desperate team trying to save their coach’s job (and avoid further trades), as the Red Wings actually narrowly edged the Ducks in shots on goal at 25-24.

All three of the Red Wings’ goals happened in the third period. Anthony Mantha tied it up a little less than six minutes into the final frame after Rakell’s second-period goal, while Gustav Nyquist collected the game-winner with 4:16 left in the third. Darren Helm then added the insurance goal.

Things might not get much easier for Anaheim in the near future, as this loss represented the second game of a five-game road trip, and after one home date, they must endure another road run:

Thu., Jan. 17: at Minnesota
Sat., Jan. 19: at New Jersey
Sun., Jan. 20: at Islanders
Wed., Jan. 23: vs St. Louis
Sat., Feb. 2: at Winnipeg
Mon., Feb. 4: at Toronto
Tue., Feb. 5: at Montreal
Thu., Feb. 7: at Ottawa
Sat., Feb. 9: at Philadelphia

Ouch.

We’ll find out soon enough if something else gives with the Ducks, whether that means yet another trade, or even a coaching change. It’s fair to wonder if there’s much anyone can do, as even all-world goalie John Gibson has no longer been able to stop the bleeding.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ducks drop 11th straight as GM stands behind Carlyle

AP
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It just keeps getting worse for the Anaheim Ducks.

Their ongoing losing streak reached 11 games on Sunday night with a crushing 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets that saw them blow another multi-goal first period lead, and then give up the winner with only 10 seconds remaining in the extra period.

Bryan Little‘s goal was the difference and continued the Ducks’ recent misery.

What makes it even worse is that they actually had another fast start by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 16 minutes thanks to goals from Brian Gibbons and Rickard Rakell. It would prove to be short-lived as a Blake Wheeler goal with less than a minute to play in the period and a Patrik Laine goal just two minutes into the second tied the game.

This all came after the Ducks let a 3-0 first period lead slip away on Friday night in what go on to be a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That game resulted in Ducks coach Randy Carlyle facing questions about his job security. Those questions are not going to go away as long as the team continues to lose the way it has. But less than an hour after Sunday’s game ended general manager Bob Murray issued a statement saying that he is, at least for the time being, sticking by his coach.

“While it’s not my preference to make comments on this topic during the season, our recent play has led to many questions. Our fans are frustrated, rightfully so, and deserve a response from me,” said Murray in the statement.

“At this time, I am not considering a coaching change. I am more focussed on our players, specifically with who is going to step up in this situation. The way we played tonight was a step in the right direction, but we need much, much more. We have higher expectations for this group, and they should expect more from themselves.”

In some way, he is not wrong about Sunday’s game. This game was a much better overall effort than what they put forward on Friday night, and it easily could have ended with a different result.

On the other hand, when you have lost 11 games in a row there really is not much room for moral victories.

Really, though, the only good thing you can say about this game from a Ducks perspective is that they were at least able to get a point and tie the Wild (currently the owners of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference) in the standings. But the Ducks have played two more games, still have one of the worst goal differentials in the NHL (minus-28), and are near the bottom of the league when it comes to their ability to prevent shots and scoring chances. That all adds up to a bad team. It is hard to see how much that will change as long as everything remains the same.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ducks struggle to find answers (again)

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As a rollercoaster season continues for the Anaheim Ducks, they head into Wednesday’s action in an uncomfortable position: out of the playoffs.

Can they eventually earn a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? It’s certainly possible, as they’re not far out. Interestingly, there’s quite a wide variety of odds when you look at prognostications from various sites.

The Ducks are in the thick of wild-card races, even as they take an eight-game losing streak into Wednesday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators. Landing a top-three spot in the Pacific seems extremely unlikely, so these bubble races are what to watch:

Still, if the Ducks grind their way to a spot in the postseason, do they have much of a chance to make a dent?

You’d expect some glum comments for a team struggling to score while mired in an eight-game skid, and that’s exactly what Ryan Getzlaf and others gave to Eric Stephens of The Athletic.

“I don’t know what else we can shake up,” Getzlaf said. “We’ve changed lines. We’ve changed defense. Everything. But we’re in this situation.”

Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle acknowledged that “frustration has been developing,” as it turns out that you can only ask for some much from a goalie in 2018-19, even one as dominant as John Gibson.

If this all sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because PHT’s covered the ups and (far too many) downs of this Ducks season so far.

  • Back in mid-November, PHT brought up the painful (but necessary) discussion about possibly firing Randy Carlyle, which wouldn’t be a first for Ducks GM Bob Murray. Obviously, Carlyle has persisted … but so have virtually all of the Ducks’ problems.
  • In early December, it seemed like Murray’s patience might pay off, as Anaheim went on a hot streak. You might be shocked to realize that Gibson had a ton to do with it.
  • To be fair to Carlyle, injuries have been a real issue for the Ducks over the last two-plus seasons. Some of that boils down to bad luck, yet it’s fair to wonder if Murray’s patience is backfiring there, too. While Anaheim’s done a marvelous job landing quality supporting cast members despite being a contender (and thus lacking many prime draft picks) for quite some time, this is still a team that lives and dies by its big names. Unfortunately, those big-name players are getting on the older side, and many of them play physical styles that age especially poorly in today’s NHL. At least they’re expected to get Rickard Rakell back on Wednesday.
  • As Adam discussed in the latest edition of PHT’s Power Rankings, reality is really striking the Ducks now.

When is it time to admit that your team might only be capable of diminishing returns, and perhaps it would be best to make changes?

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ducks’ injury problems could derail hot streak

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The Anaheim Ducks have really been heating up lately, grabbing six wins in their last seven games. A painfully familiar problem could derail all of that promise, however, as injuries are once again mounting.

The Ducks provided two unfortunate updates on Tuesday:

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Ryan Miller: The superb backup suffered an MCL sprain during Sunday’s wild 6-5 shootout win against the Devils. His recovery window is estimated at six weeks, while they’ll evaluate the veteran goalie once more in two weeks.

As you can note from this breakdown from Anaheim’s five-game winning streak, much of the Ducks’ success came from an impeccable goalie duo of Miller and John Gibson. Gibson is the Vezina-level workhorse, but don’t count out Miller’s contributions. He’s continued a so-far-phenomenal run with the Ducks, managing a .922 save percentage in 10 games this season (with four goals allowed against New Jersey hurting his numbers more than a bit).

Anaheim did get at least one bit of good luck here, relatively speaking. The Ducks were able to pluck an experienced goalie in Chad Johnson off of waivers, as they took him off of the St. Louis Blues’ hands. His former Bengals WR namesake celebrated the occasion:

Johnson’s off to a lousy start in 2018-19 (.884 save percentage in 10 games), and really struggled with the Calgary Flames last season. Even so, his .909 career save percentage is still pretty good for a journeyman backup, especially since the Ducks didn’t need to cough up any assets to give him a try.

None of this makes Miller’s loss good news, yet there’s at least a chance that Johnson could hold down the fort whenever Gibson needs a breather.

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Rickard Rakell: the Ducks didn’t provide a timetable for the winger’s return, labeling his injury as a sprained ankle.

The Athletic’s Eric Stephens reports that Rakell was wearing a protective boot this weekend:

Despite being out since Dec. 5, Rakell stands as the Ducks’ second-highest scorer (20 points in 30 games), trailing only Ryan Getzlaf.

While that 6-5 shootout win against the Devils shows that Anaheim can fill the net from time to time (pauses for own-goal jokes), they’ve generally been scoring just enough to win lately. With that in mind, Rakell’s injury really stings, especially if Nick Ritchie and Pontus Aberg start to cool off.

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To review, Miller and Rakell join a growing list of injured Ducks. Corey Perry and Cam Fowler are recovering from significant issues that required surgeries. Patrick Eaves is also dealing with injury/health issues, and it’s fair to wonder how often Ryan Kesler is truly at full-strength.

At the moment, the Ducks are ranked third in the Pacific Division with 37 points in 32 games, as the Sharks have the same 16-11-5 record but own an edge in ROW (16 to 13). They’ll close their current homestand out on Wednesday, then head out on the road for six straight away games, mostly against Eastern Conference teams:

Wed, Dec. 12: vs. Dallas
Sat, Dec. 15: @ Columbus
Mon, Dec. 17: @ Pittsburgh
Tue, Dec. 18: @ Rangers
Thu, Dec. 20: @ Boston
Sat, Dec. 22: @ Buffalo
Thu, Dec. 27: @ San Jose

It hasn’t always been pretty for the Ducks, but credit them for fighting through injuries. Unfortunately, it looks like they’ll need to keep doing so.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.