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The Ducks have found their ‘identity,’ and it’s ‘defense first’

Anaheim Ducks v New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 19: Tyler Kennedy #48 of the New Jersey Devils takes the puck as Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks defends on December 19, 2015 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The Anaheim Ducks defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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The past few years, the big question a lot of people had about the Anaheim Ducks was whether they were good enough defensively.

In that way, the Ducks were a bit like this year’s Dallas Stars. You knew they could score, but you wondered about their ability to win tight-checking, low-scoring games in the playoffs.

Things couldn’t be much different this year. Almost halfway through the season, the Ducks have scored the fewest goals in the NHL. After a horrendous start, it’s been defense that’s gotten them back into a playoff position.

“We’ve found our identity,” center Ryan Kesler told the L.A. Times. “I think with this team it starts with defense first and then we’re going to create off that.”

Since the beginning of December, Anaheim has won seven games. Here are the scorelines: 1-0, 2-1, 2-1, 4-2, 1-0, 1-0, and 4-1.

What’s it like to play the Ducks now?

“It was extreme, the biggest trap we’ve seen all year,” Calgary d-man Mark Giordano told Sportsnet. “When we had possession, they fell back.”

And the Flames managed just 14 shots in a 1-0 Anaheim win.

It may not be the prettiest hockey to watch, but for coach Bruce Boudreau, it beats losing.

“What does a coach have to do?” he said. “You do what you have to do to win.”

Boudreau, of course, went through something remarkably similar during his time as head coach of the Washington Capitals. At first, he was criticized because the high-flying Caps didn’t play with enough commitment to defense. Later, he was criticized because they got away from their run-and-gun ways. Regardless of the style they played, the Caps couldn’t win when it counted, and that cost Boudreau his job.

Earlier this season, after the Ducks started out 1-7-2, many expected Boudreau to once again pay the price with his job. However, GM Bob Murray chose patience over “rash changes.”

It still remains to be seen whether that was the right decision, but at the very least things are starting to trend in the right direction.

Anaheim is one game into what could be a season-defining eight-game home stand. The Ducks beat the Jets, 4-1, on Sunday. They host Toronto on Wednesday.

Related: Unable to score, Ducks are clogging it up real good