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Ducks Gameday -- Lessons from the preseason: First Periods Matter.

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(Second Periods Matter also, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.)

Anaheim Ducks (0-1) at Minnesota Wild (0-1)
Go visit Hockey Wilderness. Quick, before the Wild pull(s) ahead 3-0!

I suppose I should preface this whole post with a disclaimer: I'm not normally a guy who likes to panic about preseason results, nor am a guy who likes to worry after one regular season game.  Preseason features a wretched schedule with messed-up lineups, and the Ducks hardly ever win their season opener.  Plus with all the offseason roster changes, there's bound to be sloppiness out of the gate.

But at this point, the sample of "life after Pronger" consists of just 8 preseason games and 1 regular season stinker, and there are some very alarming trends in those 9 collective games.  Granted, it's only two points that have been surrendered, and for sure this is a knee-jerk early reaction -- should the Ducks get a solid win today I'm all too willing to discard these old results.

But the frank fact is -- so far without Pronger, the Ducks have been awful, particularly early in games.  Check out the numbers after the distractionary cartoon and the jump:

This cartoon is vaguely about slow starts but lacks a punchline; feel free to insert it in the comments.

The table below is tough to read -- feel free to click and enlarge if you're interested in the details, but I think it shows a bit better from a distance.  The table shows, from left to right, the "goal sequence" for each of the nine games the Ducks have played -- opposition goals are colored yellow and Anaheim goals are marked in blue.

Losspatterntable1_mediumHere's what's alarming:

In five of the nine games played, the Ducks have surrendered the game's first three goals -- all five times before the end of the second period, no less.  And a couple of those games got even worse -- in the last two meetings against the Sharks, Anaheim surrendered the game's first six goals and four goals, respectively, before Whitney's belated power play response.  Meanwhile, the Ducks have yet to enjoy a 3-goal lead in any of the games, and all five of their 2-goal leads have been cut in half by opponent goals (on average, in less than 4 minutes).

More directly, the Ducks have absolutely sucked in first periods -- in only one of the nine games have the Ducks scored in the first period, whereas opponents have scored in eight of nine first periods.  Collectively, the Ducks have been outscored 11-2 in first periods and outshot 112-57 (Yes, this includes a first period where the Ducks were outshot 30-2, but that still leaves a discrepancy of -27).  It's not tons better in the second period, either -- at the point when the Ducks should be attempting a mid-game comeback, the Ducks are still outscored 10-5 and outshot 97-85.  On Saturday, the Ducks trailed 3-0 after one and were outshot 17-2 in the second.  The Ducks do outscore in third periods and overtimes (despite being outshot in every frame), but much of that offense comes too late to be useful. 

Here's the Ducks' goals and shots broken out by period:

Period GF GA SF SA
1 2 11 57 112
2 5 10 85 97
3 10 9 72 96
OT 2 0 6 8
9 gms 19 30 220 313

Periods 1 & 2, the Ducks are outscored 21-7. That's fugginawful.

And then there's the entire matter of holding leads, which obviously hasn't occurred that often -- by my eye, there were three games where the Ducks were holding one- or two-goal leads late in regulation, and opponents successfully scored with their goalie pulled all three times.  Now in two of the games, it didn't matter too much -- 2-goal leads became 1-goal leads and wins were preserved all three times.  But assuming the Ducks ever figure out their first period suckage issue, they'll have to find a way to preserve those leads as well.  Rob Niedermayer's not around any more to take shots at an opponent's empty net -- but somebody should do it.

* * *

Though the data is alarming, again -- this is all a huge overreaction. There's still signs of positivity: even though goal-results have been horrid, amazingly the Ducks in these nine games did come away with an overall record of 5-4 (being perfect after regulation has its advantages). Plus the Ducks have a perfect 4-0 record in games in which they haven't fallen behind by three -- when games have stayed in reach, the Ducks have won them.

So come on, Snail-Ducks.  Enough with the awful starts -- like the post title says, First Periods Matter.

* * *

On an unrelated note, this came out pretty cute:

Admit it, Wild fans. Brak's face fits way too well on this logo.

Idea resurrected from the first playoff gameday post from '07.

Prediction: The Ducks do manage a first period lead today in the Battle of the Koivus, but have to re-win the game in the third.  Ducks 4, Wild 2.  Goals by Perry x2, Ryan, and the XBox version of Marchant.

Go Ducks.