ANAHEIM -- When the Anaheim Ducks suffered a 3-0 loss to the Sabres at First Niagara Center on Dec. 17, they were a team with a complete crisis of confidence. Six months removed from a Game Seven loss to Chicago in the Western Conference final, they had an 11-14-5 record and endured their seventh shutout loss of the season.
Just two months later, they are the hottest team in the NHL. The Ducks are 12-1-1 in their last 14 entering tonight's 10:30 ET game against the Sabres in Honda Center -- and a league-leading 19-4-2 since the Christmas break.
"It was probably the low point," coach Bruce Boudreau said today in recalling the loss to the Sabres. "Not taking anything away from Buffalo at that point but we had five days off to practice to work on it after a loss to Carolina at home. When we went in there and lost, we weren't very confident quite frankly after that game.
"I think that's when the players realized, 'Hey boys, let's not worry about who scores.' They want to win more than they want personal glory. The next game we went out and won and we started playing better since that time."
Boudreau, like any coach, still has reasons to fret. The Ducks have given up a power-play goal in seven straight games and their penalty killers are only working at 71 percent efficiency in that stretch. But it hasn't mattered because Anaheim has scored five-plus goals in a franchise-record four straight games and has a plus-29 goal differential since Christmas.
Contrast that to the beginning: The Ducks had one goal in their first four games and just 11 in their first 10 as they went 1-7-2.
"I'm always worried about it. It can turn around again in a heartbeat in a week so you've got to stay with it," Boudreau said. "When you do think back though, shut out in five of the first eight games you played, it was a tough pill to swallow."
"We like to think that was kind of a wakeup call for our group to figure out how we wanted to play and what we needed to do to be successful," said defenseman Cam Fowler. We want to grow this thing and gain momentum heading into the rest of the season."
The Ducks will be starting Frederik Andersen in net tonight. He's 14-8-6/2.39/.917. John Gibson has started and won the last two games and has eerily similar stats on the season (14-8-2/2.10/.917).