Well, the Ducks are looking reminiscent of last year's championship squad, even with the current injury to center Doug Weight. They've won their last five games in regulation, outscoring opponents 14-5, and have just concluded an eight-game road trip before enjoying the next seven games at home.
Still, there is the matter of the Six Games of Suck™, auspiciously inserted in the middle of their Niedersurgence. Below is a segmented look at the Ducks' season-to-date. Note that Scott Niedermayer made his debut in Game 35, while Teemu Selanne made his debut in Game 57.
|GP||Record||GF – GA = GD||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
1 – 34
+2.38 – 2.82 = -0.44
35 – 50
+2.88 – 1.63 = +1.25
51 – 56
+0.83 – 3.00 = -2.17
57 – 61
+2.80 – 1.00 = +1.80
Games 51 - 56 represent those Six Games of Suck™, where the Ducks' offense and defense struggled mightily. Now on the surface, this somewhat resembles what happened in a 2-7-2 stretch with last year's team, but last year came with easier explanations: concurrent injuries to J.S. Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Pronger, Francois Beauchemin, and Todd Marchant made the lineup much more laughable. This year, however, the lineup wasn't altered to any great degree; suddenly the team just turned terrible. In four of the six games, the Ducks surrendered the first three goals of the game.
Towards the end of that stretch, an explanation was offered: the flu. Now I'm not a guy who buys into that sort of excuse very easily, but looking at the wildly different results coming from essentially the same roster, it does seem to have some credibility. Still, I'm a fan who's trying to decide how good this current Ducks team is, and part of that is determining how much the Six Games of Suck™ matter. A pure optimist would drop those games as a non-representative hiccup, and offer that the Ducks should be 17-2-2 since Niedermayer's return, outscoring opponents 60-31. A skeptic would keep those six games in the mix, and say that the Niedermayer Ducks are 17-7-3, outscoring opponents 65-49.
It's a petty argument, really, deciding whether the Ducks are truly great or merely very good. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments, but I'll close on this note: even if I include the Six Games of Suck™, since Niedermayer's return on Dec. 16, the Ducks own the league's best defense (1.81 goals-allowed per game) and the league's best penalty kill (88.0%). It's taken a while, but Anaheim now looks very capable of defending their title (though playoffs are always a crapshoot), something I wouldn't have said with much gusto before Scott's return.