There have been many times this season where a brief glimpse at the scoreboard suggests the Quad-City Mallards are getting outplayed.
With the team sitting at 19-31-4 this year, a lot of times the scoreboard has been right. But even when the final score has ended in the Mallards' favor, a look at the shots in the game can raise some eyebrows.
The Mallards are getting outshot by a per-game average of 37.39 to 30.33 this season with the 7.06 margin being the second-largest in the league. They've allowed at least 40 shots 16 times this year, including 59 against Idaho and 63 against Fort Wayne.
Amazingly, they won those two games.
"Some people might look at the shots and think we're getting outplayed," defenseman Alexander Kuqali said. "Some games we lost big but it wasn't that we were getting completely outplayed. There were just sometimes mental errors and the problem was we were doing too many of them."
Fans may want the Mallards to shoot the puck more and sometimes they're right. The Mallards were held to just three shots in the first period Friday against Indy and three times this year didn't force the opposing goaltender to make 20 saves in a game.
However, shots don't always lead to wins.
The Mallards have outshot their opponent 14 times this year but are only 3-8-3 in those games.
Quantity helps, but quality matters.
"It's not only the quantity or quality, it's where, it's location," head coach Phil Axtell said. "Guys have to be willing to get to that area to shoot and score goals."
When the Mallards have been successful, they've kept opponents away from key areas while in turn getting to them on their own end.
In that 63-shot barrage against Fort Wayne, the Mallards actually limited the scoring chances for the Komets. According to the ECHL's shot chart, 20 of those shots came from between the goal line and the top of the face-off circle, 31.7 percent. The other 43 came from above the circles, shots most goalies will stop. The Mallards allowed three goals in that game, a shootout win.
This past weekend against Indy, the Mallards allowed 64 of the Fuel's 104 total shots to come from those danger areas, 61.5 percent. The result was 18 goals allowed in three games and three straight losses.
"It's eliminating some of our turnovers, whether it's breaking the puck out clean or not turning it over at their blue line, live to fight another day and just dump the puck in," forward Jamie Tardif said. "As a team, we definitely have to decrease our turnovers which will decrease their amount of shots."
Defense has perhaps been the biggest issue this year for the Mallards and it's a story of inexperience.
Thirteen of the Mallards on the roster are in either their first or second year of playing professional hockey. Among the eight defensemen, six are either rookies or second-year players.
Last year's 40-win team had three defensemen at least in their third professional season and also had two players on AHL contracts at the end of the season. That team allowed 31.49 shots per game and 3.06 goals per game.
This year's team allows 4.09 goals per game.
The Mallards are working hard to try and rectify their issues but with 18 games left, these are lessons likely to be more valuable next season.
"It starts with communication, whether we're transitioning to offense or the other way around, we all want to be tight and make short passes, moving forward up the ice," Kuqali said. "It goes the same coming back on defense, we want to be tight, we want to be on our guys and we want to be talking because if we're not, that's when two guys go to one and we give up a slot shot or we get mixed around down low.
"Sometimes we're really good with it, we're just not experienced enough with it."
Nagy back with Mallards: Gergo Nagy returned to the team Tuesday after being released from a professional tryout agreement signed with the Chicago Wolves last week.
Mallards welcome in dogs: The Mallards will allow dogs into the TaxSlayer Center for Sunday's 4 p.m. game against the Fort Wayne Komets.
A special area in the arena will be set aside for dogs and their owners. In order to have its own seat, dogs must have a ticket to the game. If a dog does not require its own seat, no ticket is necessary. The Mallards will limit one dog per person. All dogs are required to be leashed, up to date on all shots and have visible rabies tags.
Tickets are $15 for owners and $5 for dogs. All proceeds from dog tickets will benefit Quad-Cities area animal shelters and rescue organizations.
This week: The Mallards host the Utah Grizzlies Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. and Friday at 7 p.m., their first meeting of the year.
The Mallards then travel to Cincinnati to take on the Cyclones Saturday at 6:35 p.m. The Mallards are 1-4-2 against the Cyclones this year.
Sunday the Mallards return to the TaxSlayer Center to host the Fort Wayne Komets at 4:05 p.m. The Mallards are 1-6-1 against the Komets this year.