NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Anaheim Ducks.
1. Where will the offense come from?
The Anaheim Ducks ranked 29th in the NHL in scoring last season (2.56 goals per game) after finishing last in 2018-19 (2.39). Forwards Adam Henrique (26) and Jakob Silfverberg (21) were the only players to score at least 20 goals for the Ducks last season, and Henrique’s 43 points led Anaheim.
The Ducks could count on more from young forwards Max Jones, 22, Troy Terry, 23, and Sam Steel, 22; each played at least 47 games last season, though none scored more than 22 points.
“Do we need to score more goals? Absolutely,” coach Dallas Eakins said. “And if we could find a way throughout our whole team through a season to give us another 25 goals … then I think that would be a great step in the right direction. If we can get some more out of [the young players], awesome.”
2. Who will be the backup goalie?
John Gibson is one of five NHL goalies to play at least 50 games in each of the past four seasons (Frederik Andersen, Sergei Bobrovsky, Connor Hellebuyck, Andrei Vasilevskiy), so it’s clear he’ll again make a bulk of the starts.
Ryan Miller, who was the backup the past three seasons, is an unrestricted free agent. Expected backup Anthony Stolarz has 26 games of NHL experience, including one game with the Ducks last season. He was 21-12-6 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 39 games with San Diego of the American Hockey League last season.
“Stolarz had a [heck] of a year in San Diego, he made some really big strides there,” Eakins said. “Does he have a chance at [the backup job]? Absolutely. But the one thing with (general manager) Bob [Murray] is Bob’s always looking to make us better. … As of right now, we have guys that we’re comfortable with.”
3. Will they improve on special teams?
The Ducks ranked next-to-last in the NHL on the power play last season (14.7 percent) and 26th on the penalty kill (77.0 percent). They allowed at least one power-play goal in 36 of 71 games and at least two in 12 games, and their 27 power-play goals were the fewest in the NHL. Henrique’s five power-play goals led the Ducks, and he tied for the Anaheim lead with nine power-play points, the fewest by any team leader.
One player who could help is defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who signed a three-year contract Oct. 9. He scored seven power-play points (one goal, six assists) for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season but scored at least 25 in four straight seasons from 2014-17 and should be on the first power-play unit.
“Obviously, the power-play numbers speak for itself,” Murray said. “It makes us better in those areas. [Shattenkirk is] just very, very smart. He moves the puck, he gets the puck up the ice to the forwards. In today’s game, you’ve got to get it up to your forwards. We’ve got to get it in some of our young kids’ hands.”