Joint on points for first place in the Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks, though they have played two games more than the team in teal, the Anaheim Ducks have managed to bob above the surging Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames – taking full advantage of Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick-less season.
The Ducks have been scoring plenty of goals, but putting full trust in young goaltender John Gibson has brought some turbulent times, as is expected, but what’s really boosting the team to their lofty standing is their work in the faceoff circle.
Ducks dominating the duel
After 43 games played, the Anaheim Ducks sit bill and shoulders above the rest of the NHL in team faceoff win percentage, with a 55.5 percent success rate. The next closest are the Detroit Red Wings, who have a 53.5 win rate in the duel, having played two fewer games than the Ducks.
Anaheim has managed to stay cool and collected in all faceoff situations, giving them possession of the puck the majority of the time. During even-strength play, the Ducks have recorded a 55.19 faceoff win percentage and get even better on the powerplay at 60.60 percent. When shorthanded, Anaheim’s numbers sink a bit, but they’re still sporting a strong 52.9 win rate.
Over the course of this season, the Ducks have defeated their opponent in the faceoff circle in 36 of their 43 games, which is incredible. When at Carolina, the two teams split the faceoffs exactly. Anaheim has only been undone six times in the duel so far, seeing their win percentage dip below 50 percent when in Nashville, San Jose, Dallas, and Detroit, along with losing in the circle at home whilst hosting the Red Wings and Wild.
Anaheim’s faceoff stars
For many years now, Ryan Kesler has been in and around the conversation of the Frank J. Selke Award, even winning it in 2011 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. The top American center is putting in another very strong claim this year, currently leading the league in faceoff wins with 541, boasting a mighty 57.9 faceoff win percentage.
So far this season, Kesler has achieved the very rare feat of having a perfect faceoff night twice, against the San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes, both at home. Alongside this, he has scored 16 goals and 35 points whilst hosting a +11 rating, solidifying himself atop the Ducks’ scoring table, and earning a place at the 2017 NHL All-Star games above the more regular all-stars in Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
Last season, center Antoine Vermette claimed a solid 55.81 faceoff win percentage through 76 games for the Arizona Coyotes. With a two-year contract gifted to him over the summer by the Ducks, Vermette has seen his numbers in the duel explode.
After 750 faceoffs, second highest for an Anaheim skater, Vermette has managed to win possession on 480 occasions, leading to an astronomically good win percentage of 64.0 percent; and quite importantly, having a 62.0 win rate when shorthanded. The fact that he is yet to have a perfect game, faceoff-wise, to buff his numbers proves how consistent he’s been all season. Vermette has also posted seven goals and 18 points during this campaign.
Anaheim’s third faceoff star is Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks captain rocks an admirable 52.1 faceoff win percentage on 509 duels, with his five goals and 30 points adding to his immense value to the club.
Can Anaheim sustain this success?
Centers tend to stay true to their win rate in the faceoff circle over the season, especially when it comes to 30-plus-year-old veterans like Ryan Getzlaf, Antoine Vermette, and Ryan Kesler. Assuming that the pivots stay consistent, the Anaheim Ducks have a great chance of clinching a divisional playoff spot.
Anaheim’s main problem is the number of goals that they concede, but with Kesler’s defensive presence, and the amount of puck possession won by the Ducks, they should be able to use that to keep the opposition off of the scoreboard for longer, and forge scoring opportunities when in control of the puck.
Do you think that the Ducks will keep their divisional playoff spot? Let us know in the comments section below.