USATSI_9036762_154158418_lowresIt’s safe to say that the Anaheim Ducks have emerged as the team most people knew they could be. Back in November, we explored the virtues of the club as they began to pull out of the slump. And now with 2016 in the works, the Ducks have a 16-15-7 record and are third in the Pacific Division with 39 points. That puts them in a tie with the Vancouver Canucks.

Anaheim has still struggled in terms of putting the puck in net, with just 73 goals for over the course of 38 games. They’re six goals behind the Philadelphia Flyers.

The good news is that the Ducks have only allowed 90 goals against, with only the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals besting them in the category. And they’ve gone 5-3-2 for their last 10 games, improving their home record to 10-5-4 on the year.

What’s more, goalie John Gibson was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for December. He went 5-3-1 with a 1.62 goals against average and a .929 save percentage, putting together three shutouts in 10 games for the last month of 2015.

The Ducks have also received a considerable boost from their defensive unit, with coach Bruce Boudreau switching things up to a more mobile squad. He’s given more ice time to the likes of Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen, with the former evolving into one of the best blueliners on the team. He’s been able to find active forwards with the puck, plus his skating has ensured that he keeps the puck out of trouble.

Vatanen, too, has been on the money. He has 20 points in 38 games, including five goals.

Special teams have also come through in a big way, with a terrific penalty kill (88.6 percent) that’s allowed just 15 power play goals against this season so far.

“We have three good duos that take pride in doing their job on the PK,” said Carl Hagelin. “All of us have been in the league for a while, so we know what it takes. The more experience you have on the PK, the better it is. The goalies have played great, and the defence is doing its job in front of the net, boxing guys out and clearing the puck when they have the chance.”

Next up, the Ducks will face the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both clubs were 1-7-2 at the end of October, if you can believe it, and both teams are on the rise. Now that’s a story for 2016.

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