ANAHEIM — No question, the raw data looked pretty bad going into the Ducks’ game against the Minnesota Wild at Honda Center, starting with their lackluster 7-7-3 record, which left them in fifth place in the Pacific Division at the start of business around the league Friday.
The Ducks also had the NHL’s 26th-best offense with 41 goals scored and its 18th-best defense with 48 goals given up before facing the Wild. Their power play was ranked 25th with a 14.6 percent success rate and their penalty kill was 18th at 78.9 percent.
Injuries to key players played a role in skewing the numbers, but it wasn’t as if the Ducks’ sluggish start to the season had left them too much ground to make up in the playoff chase. They were, after all, only four points out of first place in the jam-packed Pacific standings.
How was it possible? Why were they still in striking distance?
Credit their goaltenders.
The Ducks had given up 36.5 shots per game going into Friday, the second-highest average in the league behind the Ottawa Senators’ 39.3. That figure was down somewhat from a few weeks ago, when it approached a staggering 40 shots per game.
Goaltenders John Gibson and Ryan Miller have faced down the shot barrage better than anyone could have expected. Well, anyone not connected with the Ducks, anyway. Coach Randy Carlyle isn’t surprised by their standout play, particularly that of the 38-year-old Miller.
Carlyle likes to refer to his goalies as 1-A and 1-B because there is little difference.
“We’ve come to expect that,” Carlyle said of Miller’s superb play. “I know you guys roll your eyes when I say 1-A and 1-B, but in fact, if you look at the save percentages, and you look at the records, and you look at the number of points that Ryan Miller has delivered … our level doesn’t drop.
“And that’s a huge, huge benefit for our hockey club.”
Miller’s save percentage of .936 was the sixth-best in the league going into Friday.
Gibson’s save percentage of .933 was ninth-best.
No other team had two goalies in the top nine.
Miller’s goals-against average of 2.33 was 14th-best.
Gibson’s goals-against average of 2.41 was 17th-best.
No other team had two goalies in the top 17.
“We go into the games with confidence our goaltenders are going to give us a chance to win, and that’s what we ask,” Carlyle said. “If we need to score five goals to win and he only gives up four, we’re happy with that. In reality, we know we have to play a tighter defensive style of hockey.
“We have to win by one goal, and one- or two-goal games are the norm.”
Miller was in goal for the Ducks’ 3-2 victory Wednesday over the Calgary Flames, stopping 37 shots to improve his record to 2-2-0 in five appearances in 2018-19. His win also was the 372nd of his career, moving him into a tie with Andy Moog for 17th place on the NHL’s all-time list.
Miller is two victories away from tying John Vanbiesbrouck for the most wins by a United States-born goalie in league history. Vanbiesbrouck won 374 games in a 20-year career with the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
Dawn Wright, the Ducks’ longtime anthem singer, has been sidelined by health issues.
“Hi All, Yes I am sad to say I’ve been having vocal issues:( Not sure what’s going on but I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like this before,” Wright wrote on Twitter. “Thankfully I found a doctor that works with singers but is very busy. I’m just waiting for my (appointment).”
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