ANAHEIM, Calif. – If there’s any team in the NHL that can’t wait for 2024, it has to be the Anaheim Ducks. After concluding their 2022-23 season with the worst record in franchise history, the team failed to win the NHL Draft Lottery, falling to second overall and missing out on Connor Bedard.
Leo Carlsson, whom Anaheim selected with their first pick, has been more than a consolation prize. Carlsson scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut and picked up his first NHL hat trick as well just eight games later. However, the big Swede––who just recently turned 19––is currently on the shelf with a sprained MCL, with his recovery time expected to be four to six weeks.
The Ducks have had their fair share of injuries this season, with Mason McTavish, Jamie Drysdale, Trevor Zegras and Alex Killorn all out of the lineup at one point or another due to long-term injuries. This has made it difficult for newly-named head coach Greg Cronin to ice his optimal lineup.
John Gibson and Lukas Dostál have held down the fort in net for the majority of the season, but they can only do so much before the onslaught from the opposition breaks the dam. Penalties have also been a major issue for Anaheim this season, as they rank first in penalties taken (206) and minor penalties (174) and have the worst penalty differential (-45) in the league.
2023 for Anaheim concluded with a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton’s second line of Ryan McLeod, Leon Draisaitl and Warran Foegele wreaked havoc on the Ducks as they combined for ten points. Foegele had two of the Oilers’ seven goals.
“We have a hard time getting pucks off their sticks,” said Cronin. “Draisaitl’s a big guy, (Connor) McDavid’s strong. Foegele, he’s a big strong guy. McLeod, I’ve watched him grow from (the AHL). Big, strong, long forward.”
Anaheim got their two goals from Max Jones and Frank Vatrano. It was Jones’ fourth goal of the season and Vatrano’s 17th of the season. “I just came off the wall first and got to the front of the net and picked up the loose change,” said Jones.
Radko Gudas made his return to the lineup after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. He logged just under 20 minutes of ice time in his first game back. “We’ve got to find a way to keep the puck out of our net,” said Gudas. “We gave them a couple of backdoor, empty net passes. That’s absolutely unacceptable from our end.”
“I think a lot of this is correctable,” said Cronin. “I thought the first period tonight was a good period. That’s how you want to play them. They had limited offensive zone time. They’re going to get chances. They’re really good. The correctable piece is why are we leaving the front of our net?”
Cronin flipped the forward lines around following a shutout loss on Friday night against the Coyotes and said he liked the compete level of the team more than he did the other night, despite the lopsided scoreline from tonight’s game.
“I thought we did a really good job going to the net and creating rebounds and screens. We just couldn’t put them in. When (Edmonton) gets it going and they shield pucks and they protect them, it’s a hard game to play. They’re a good team.”