ANAHEIM — So much for fresh starts, new beginnings, resolutions or any kind of motivational cliche you want to trot out.
The page might have turned from 2022 to 2023 but the Ducks’ considerable struggles didn’t just continue but deepened. They finished on a sour note in their final game of 2022 and there was simply more of the same in their first game of 2023, a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night at Honda Center.
Swedish rookie goalie Samuel Ersson made 28 saves to secure his third win – in just his fourth NHL game. Ersson made his NHL debut two days before Christmas at Carolina, in relief of an injured Carter Hart.
Ducks forward Ryan Strome scored with 39.6 seconds remaining to end Ersson’s shutout bid, as the Ducks dropped to 1-3-1 on a franchise-record 10-game homestand.
Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee each had a goal and an assist, while Noah Cates and Kevin Hayes each had two assists.
The Flyers, sitting in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, led 2-0 after one period on goals by Farabee and Morgan Frost (from distance above the left circle) and added another in the second from Konecny, who converted a two-on-one and finished the scoring with Scott Laughton’s wraparound at 8:26 of the third.
Any momentum that the Ducks might have generated from their shootout win against Vegas on Dec. 28 evaporated with back-to-back losses to Nashville on Friday and to the Flyers. They’ve managed one goal in two games – Sam Carrick against the Predators – and have been outscored 10-2.
The Ducks’ power play was unable to make any inroads against the Flyers’ PK, which is ranked 23rd in the NHL. The Ducks went 0 for 5 on the man advantage with nine shots on goal, and are on an 0-for-10 run since scoring two power-play goals in a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary on Dec. 23.
“Tonight, we needed one on that power play,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “At least on one of them it would have put a little extra life into us. Through the game, we’ve got it as they (the Flyers) had 10 Grade-A’s, and we had 10 Grade-A chances. I think they had six B’s and we had eight B’s.
“On the C chances, we outnumbered them – but they’re not real game-breakers, the C chances, sometimes they turn into something. It’s a super even game. We needed one on the power play because we’re not scoring 5 on 5.”
One of the (many) issues for the Ducks’ power play is an element of predictability, according to Strome.
“Toward the end, I think it was more execution and frustration,” he said. “But I think overall, a little bit predictable in my opinion. Teams are very good at the pre-scout now, so you have to be so deceptive. Penalty kills – those guys pride themselves on their job, so the power play has got to be extra on our toes and I feel like most part of the year we’ve done that.
“But we haven’t been able to execute. I feel like the last few games the urgency hasn’t been high enough.”
The Ducks’ power play is ranked 31st in the NHL, one slot ahead of, incidentally, the 32nd-ranked Flyers.
“The start of the year really crushed us on the percentages,” Eakins said. “It’s a long haul to come back off of that.”
The Ducks’ top scorers – Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras – are in goal-scoring droughts, now hitting seven and 10 games, respectively. Zegras led the Ducks with nine shots on goal against the Flyers
“I think it’s one of the hardest things because we’ve got just a few guys that are really expected to score,” Eakins said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that are really expected to work hard and do their best to get it at the net.
“When there’s that amount of pressure on you, knowing you’re one of those guys that’s got to put it on the board, it does weigh on you. … Let’s take (Terry) – he’s our best player, if he’s not getting any chances, then you’ve got a problem. If he’s not scoring but getting chances, you just have to understand in your head, it’s going to turn another way.”