to take on the Kings. Even though Gibson had played in just three career regular season games, he proved a very tough opponent for Los Angeles, allowing nine goals in four games. With Hiller departing to Calgary in free agency, the Ducks were so impressed by Gibson’s performance that they’re bringing him back as the starter in 2014-15. Returning to back Gibson up will be Andersen, whose performance in the regular season was excellent, even if that performance didn’t translate to postseason play. Andersen played in 28 games for the Ducks, posting an outstanding 20-5 record with just a 2.29 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Those spectacular numbers across the board were enough for Andersen to get Calder Trophy consideration despite his relative lack of games played. Power Play Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Ducks last season was their head-scratching struggles on the power play. Despite featuring one of the most productive attacks in the NHL and two of the top forwards in the league, the Ducks could only convert on 16.0 percent of their power plays, ranking just 22nd in the NHL. The Ducks will also return without Nick Bonino, who was second on the team with seven power play goals last year. It’s difficult to imagine Anaheim struggling so much on the power play again. The Ducks were one of the best power play teams in the league in the 2012-13 season. With one of the most potent offensive attacks in the league, it’s more likely than not that last year’s dip was merely an aberration. Expect the Ducks to bounce back and become a strong power play team again this year. Penalty Kill The Ducks ranked 13th on the penalty kill last season, successfully shutting down 82.2 percent of opposing teams’ power plays. With Hampus Lindholm emerging as a top defensive option opposite Francois Ryan Getzlaf PHOTO/NHL/Getty Images Beauchemin, the Ducks have a go-to defensive pair that can help shut down opposing offenses. Lindholm provides a big, physical presence who can keep opposing forwards away from the net while Beauchemin provides veteran savvy. Ben Lovejoy will also be a steady option on the penalty kill but the Ducks will have to figure out who their fourth defenseman will be. Clayton Stoner is a likely option due to his big frame but the Ducks might also turn to reserve big man Bryan Allen. The Ducks feature a penalty killing group with plenty of good players but no true superstars. As such, the Ducks figure to be an average penalty killing team once again in 2014-15. Three Questions 1. Is John Gibson truly ready to be a starting goalie in the NHL? There’s no reason to think he isn’t. Even though Gibson is just 21 years old, he was easily the toughest goalie in the playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings. If Gibson can handle that kind of pressure, then he should have the poise necessary to handle being the full-time starting goaltender for the Ducks. 2. Can the Ducks turn things around on special teams? This team really should be able to substantially improve on the power play. Last year’s power play percentage of 16.0 percent was the lowest for the Ducks in over a decade. This team has far too much offensive firepower to be that poor on the power play again. An expected improvement there is one reason to think of the Ducks as a leading contender to win the Stanley Cup. 3. Will puck possession hold this team back? If there’s an indicator that Anaheim might not be as good as expected this year, it’s their mediocre rate of puck possession. The Ducks ranked 16th in the Fenwick close statistic last year, an indicator that their puck possession was not a strong point for them. If Anaheim wants to take that next step forward and win the Stanley Cup, they’ll need to improve at keeping the puck in the opponent’s end of the ice. Prediction Anaheim will be one of the top regular season teams again, on the strength of an excellent offense and an improved power play. However, with average defense, mediocre puck possession, and inexperienced goaltending, there are too many questions for this team to answer. Anaheim will fall short in the Western Conference playoffs again.
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