Ducks ahead Trevor Zegras gathered the puck on the middle ice dot and slowly swung extensive proper as he approached goaltender Filip Gustavsson to steer off a shootout final week at Minnesota. As Zegras accelerated he shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand and backwards and forwards once more, his slick fingers permitting him to take care of management.
He faked going to his forehand. Gustavsson purchased it. Zegras went to his backhand, flicking the puck previous the helpless goalie for an additional highlight-reel second in his younger profession.
Zegras, well-known for his spectacular lacrosse-style targets, is mesmerizing. So is teammate Troy Terry, who led the Ducks final season in targets (37) and factors (67). Each scored targets throughout regulation time in that sport in opposition to the Wild. Regardless of their excellence, the Ducks misplaced that day, a lamentably acquainted consequence.
Practically a 3rd of the way in which into the season, the Ducks are an NHL-worst 7-17-3. They’ve gained in regulation as soon as, a 3-2 determination over the New York Rangers on Nov. 23. They’ve gained 4 instances in additional time, together with a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, and twice in shootouts. They’re giving up probably the most targets and photographs per sport within the league and rank close to the underside in scoring.
The Ducks gave up the lead thrice Tuesday at Honda Middle earlier than Ryan Strome completed off a two-on-one break to finish the group’s dropping streak at six. They’ve already endured a seven-game dropping streak, in October. They’re properly on the way in which to lacking the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
However they do have one thing going for them as they plod towards securing the very best odds within the draft lottery: Thanks primarily to the brilliance of Terry, Zegras and rookie ahead Mason McTavish — and valiant efforts from overburdened goalie John Gibson — the Ducks are probably the most entertaining dangerous group within the NHL.
That may’t be a lot comfort for them. However for the sake of followers, they’ve a minimum of produced some “wow” moments to interrupt up a dreary season and the lengthy wait for his or her prospects to blossom.
“I thought the record would be a little better, to be honest with you. But hey, it is what it is,” stated common supervisor Pat Verbeek, who was employed final February, three months after Bob Murray resigned within the wake of accusations of improper skilled conduct.
“It’s a tough league,” Verbeek added. “We’ve been in games that we’ve totally blown, making terrible mistakes. This league is not forgiving in that sense. When you make those type of mistakes, it usually goes in the net.”
Verbeek, whose pugnacious enjoying model earned him the nickname “Little Ball of Hate,” discovered early in his profession that dropping feels horrible. In 1983-84, his first full season, his New Jersey Devils misplaced 20 of their first 22 video games. They didn’t make the playoffs till 1987-88.
However he additionally is aware of that profitable feels superb, having been a part of Dallas’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship group. He sees just one option to get from the bottom of lows to the very best of highs.
“You keep coming every day to practice to get better. That’s how you get over it,” Verbeek stated. “There were times it was complete frustration, playing well and we’d still lose. But when we were 23, 24, we started winning those games. It took experience. It took going through those types of lessons to get through it.”
A number of these classes. “Is it good to lose? Yes, at times it is,” he stated. “Do you want winning? You do want that, too, just because success is good for your confidence. Winning is good for the confidence, certainly. But I think going through games that we lose is also character-building.”
Which suggests the Ducks ought to develop loads of character this season.
Nobody, together with Verbeek, anticipated them to contend for the Cup this season. Out of necessity, he traded a number of veterans and their massive contracts final season, buying long-term property however dropping short-term depth. It didn’t assist when free-agent defenseman John Klingberg underperformed earlier than he sustained a lower-body damage, or that dynamic younger defenseman Jamie Drysdale injured his shoulder early. This was projected to be a developmental season. It nonetheless is.
Followers have been calling for the job of coach Dallas Eakins, whose one-year contract was inherited by Verbeek, however there’s little purpose to count on a change quickly. “We’re a month and a half into the season. I need to see more,” Verbeek stated.
He’s in search of development from the children who will kind the Ducks’ core. However the danger of a gradual rebuild is that these youngsters turn into accustomed to dropping and settle for it as regular. “Unfortunately, a lot of them have been a part of that over the last few years. You have to just change the culture,” veteran Kevin Shattenkirk stated lately. “You have to change the belief in the locker room.”
Outcomes like their additional time triumph Tuesday assist reinforce the worth of tenacity and sticking to Verbeek’s plan. “I know they’re being taught and there’s things for them to learn and there’s experiences for them to learn and the only way they can kind of do that is through ice time,” Verbeek stated. “They need runway. They need some time.
“I’m just kind of exercising patience right now. I’ve not seen any trends that have got me worried. As long as they keep competing and they keep working, not that losing’s great, but losing is learning as well.”
At this price, they’ll be well-educated. What they do with their schooling — in addition to the expertise they’ve collected and have coming by means of the pipeline — will decide if the “Little Ball of Hate” could make them not simply entertaining however persistently profitable too.