Mired in a nine-game losing streak, The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek wrote yesterday that this is a “critical time” for the Anaheim Ducks. While he notes that the Ducks have the unfortunate designation of leading the NHL in man-games lost this season, they were set to finally add top-pair defenseman Cam Fowler and first-line forward Rickard Rakell back into the lineup last night. The team hoped that the duo’s return would finally spark a win for a team that is as close to full health now as they have been all year.
It didn’t work out that way. Despite taking a 3-0 first period lead on the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, the Ducks ended up losing 7-4 behind four unanswered Penguins goals in the third period in one of the more disheartening defeats that any team has faced this year.
Despite the optimism that injuries were the cause of their slump and a return to health would right the ship, Anaheim lost again last night for their tenth straight game without a win. The team has plummeted down the standings, now a whopping 12 points back of the final Pacific Division seed, held by the surging Vegas Golden Knights, and a point behind Minnesota for the final wild card spot, with the Wild holding two games in hand. The Ducks are one more loss away from being a .500 team and have slipped to a -27 in goal differential, not quite the numbers of a playoff-bound team. Anaheim is second-to-last in goals for per game, fueled by the fewest shots per game in the league on average, have an anemic 14.3% power play, and – despite the best efforts of starter John Gibson playing behind a porous defense of late – are a middle of the road goals against team.