Ducks impress on road trip, ride winning streak into All-Star break

Is three a lucky number for the Ducks? They go into the all-star break on a three-game winning streak, thanks to Trevor Zegras’ third career overtime winner against the Arizona Coyotes—the third goal of the game. Goaltender John Gibson stopped 33 shots and the Ducks currently sit third-worst in the league standings.

While all of this is purely a numerical coincidence, the three consecutive wins are a sight for sore eyes. Anaheim currently holds a 16-29-5 record through 50 games with a -80 goal differential, the worst in the league by a country mile. Poor special teams play continues to be an issue and subpar defensive coverage combined with mental mistakes have cost them dearly on numerous occasions.

In some ways, the Ducks are what many expected them to be: a team that’s been stripped down but has a young core that they’ll be able to rely on for years to come. Of course, not many expected the team to be this bad. Expectations of marquee free agent signings haven’t been met. Though, the recent winning streak has been in part to those additions.

Klingberg Improving as Season Progresses

After a stellar Ducks debut in the home opener with two assists, defenseman John Klingberg went scoreless for the next eight games. The Swede has gone through several stretches this season without registering a point, but he has six in the last 10 games. His latest assist set up Zegras’ game-winning tally.

There’s no doubt that general manager Pat Verbeek is working the phones in an attempt to not only gauge a return for Klingberg—who is a pending UFA—but to also find a destination suitable for the player, who has a 10-team no-trade clause.

Jan 26, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg (3) controls the puck in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With Jamie Drysdale out for what’s expected to be the remainder of the season, Kevin Shattenkirk currently out with an injury of his own and Urho Vaakanainen leaving last night’s game early and not returning, the Ducks’ defensive depth feels paper-thin. Nathan Beaulieu and Colton White can fill in where needed and Michael Del Zotto down in San Diego with the Gulls could be an option as well. But beyond them, there are not many defensive reinforcements with extensive NHL experience.

Making Things Look E‘Z’

Trevor Zegras has 17 points in his last 15 games. A career-high six-game point streak—during which he had 10 points—helped spark the Ducks on their recent road trip. They came away with seven points from the six-game spot and perhaps should have come away with more. Impressive comeback wins over Columbus and Colorado saw contributions from across the board.

Zegras is no longer the top line center on paper. That role has been handed to Mason McTavish as head coach Dallas Eakins looked to shake things up after Zegras put up just seven points in 14 games in December.

The change looks to have invigorated Zegras as he and Ryan Strome quickly found chemistry on the new-look line. Recently, Zegras has been reunited with Adam Henrique and Troy Terry, but there’s no doubt that the line reorganization helped find better matchups and better scoring opportunities for him.

Goaltending Gets Going

Anaheim’s goaltending was superb on their six-game road trip. Six goals allowed against Buffalo came down to lapses in concentration and carelessness with the puck more than poor performance in net. And despite the 6-3 loss, John Gibson still made 33 saves. He had a record of 2-1-1 during the road slate with a .911 SV%.

Backup Anthony Stolarz bounced back against the Coyotes, stopping 37 of 39 shots in a 5-2 win after a rough go against Columbus the week before. Stolarz will likely see a few more starts handed his way as the March 3 trade deadline approaches as well, with Anaheim looking to put the pending UFA in the shop window for any playoff contenders looking to address their goaltending depth.

The Ducks are off for the week with All-Star festivities taking place this weekend in Sunrise, Fla. Troy Terry is the team’s lone representative and was named an All-Star for the second consecutive year.

Anaheim will head back out on the road after the break to face Dallas and Chicago before returning home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 10 in Rickard Rakell’s first time at Honda Center since being traded last season.

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