There have been a few surprises to start the season so far, but nothing has been more shocking than the Anaheim Ducks’ anemic offense. The team has just six goals in eight games so far and they’ve been shutout five times. The Ducks were seen by many prognosticators as a legit Stanley Cup contender going into the season, but so far they’ve been laying giant goose eggs all over the scoresheet.
The slow start has even caused some speculation about Bruce Boudreau’s job safety and when a team with Cup aspirations starts 1-5-2 that’s not particularly surprising. There’s a giant magnifying glass over this team because it’s the first eight games, but that’s a tad unfair. These games shouldn’t be treated much differently from games in December or January just because they’re at the beginning of the year.
The Ducks have been one of the league’s best teams since Boudreau stepped behind the bench and opinions shouldn’t change based on just eight games, especially considering how unlucky those eight games have been.
Anaheim currently has a shooting percentage of just 2.6 percent which is insanely low. In each of the previous three seasons that number was north of nine percent and the team finished in the top ten each season.
Hockey Graph’s Dawson Sprigings (or @DTMAboutHeart on Twitter) has developed an ‘expected goals’ model that takes into account the quality of every shot a team takes and according to those numbers, the Ducks should be scoring 2.43 goals per game. That’s about 19 goals for the season that the Ducks should have which is 13 more goals than they’ve actually scored. If every six goals is roughly equal to one win, that’s essentially two wins lost in the first eight games.
To say they’ve been unlucky is putting things mildly. The Ducks have taken 223 shots so far this season and if their expected goals is around 19 than their shooting percentage should be around 8.7 percent. If every shot has an 8.7 percent chance of scoring on average, than the Ducks scoring just six goals on 223 shots will happen about 0.02 percent of the time. That’s insanely unlikely.
Over the last decade, just 12 teams have scored a goal or less per game over an eight game stretch and only one team (last year’s Sabres) has scored less than Anaheim’s current mark of six. Anaheim’s shooting percentage is the lowest of any team in any eight game stretch since 2005-06.
There’s a bunch of really bad teams keeping the Ducks company, but there are two teams on the list that might make fans feel more at ease. In 2013-14, both the St. Louis Blues and the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings had a serious eight-game funk that mirrored Anaheim’s 2015-16 start. Both teams ended up relatively fine.
There’s also the fact that most of teams on the list were from the past two seasons. That’s a lot of recent teams experiencing drastic scoring woes and the reason for that is likely the increased difficulty of scoring. Goalie save percentages keep climbing which means that this kind of dry spell might become more common in the future. A team is more likely to post poor offensive numbers if they have a lower baseline and stronger goaltending league-wide lowers that for every team.
The bottom line here is that it isn’t time to panic just yet. The Ducks haven’t played very well yet, but they’re also not getting any bounces on offense. No team will look good when those two things collide. Think of how amazing Carey Price has been the past two seasons and then consider the fact that the goalies the Ducks have faced have been collectively better than that. That doesn’t add up.
These guys didn’t just forget how to score overnight. The goals will come. Sometimes, you’ll face a goalie who’s on top of his game and there’s not much you can do about it. Sometimes, you’ll face that goalie eight games in a row. That’s what’s happening to the Ducks right now, but don’t bank on it to continue.