For the first time since maybe the third week of the season, I'm actually excited about Ducks games again. And judging by the flood of comments on our various pieces at Anaheim Calling this week, a lot of you seem to be feeling the same way. I'm not sure about you, but It really feels like the season is starting all over again.
The Minnesota Wild and the Anaheim Ducks are both having seasons that are defying expectations. While the Ducks have found new and exciting ways to lose games, the Wild currently sit at first place in the Western Conference, just one point behind the NHL-best Pittsburgh Penguins. A quick look at the numbers suggests that Minnesota is succeeding on the strength of their defense, as they rank 5th in the league in goals against per game. The Wild don't score a ton of goals (their best player, Mikko Koivu, isn't even averaging a point-per-game), but they seem to be making the ones they do score count, as evidenced by their surprisingly low +7 goal differential.
Unfortunately for the Wild, they're one of the five teams that the Ducks have managed to beat this year. The Ducks beat Minnesota 3-2 way back on October 27th, although the Wild did return the favor on November 13th when they beat Anaheim by the same score. Over the past few years, the Wild have been one of those teams that has hung around much longer in games than I'd like. There have been a few games where the Ducks seemingly had things in the bag, only to see Minnesota make things uncomfortable late in games. Given our propensity to blow late leads this season, I'm somewhat apprehensive about this game.
After appearing gassed near the end of the Flyers game, new coach Bruce Boudreau held an optional workout yesterday to let the boys rest. If the Ducks have any chance of maintaining their energetic, up-tempo pace from the first 40 minutes of Friday's game, they'll need to come out firing with fresh legs. [Ed. Note: In the notes from practice, how awesome is it that BB is already calling out floppers? Can't wait until he sees Nashville vs. the Ducks]
In BB's second game behind the bench, I'm expecting to see a team and overall game plan that roughly matches what we saw on Friday. I was personally stunned by how different the Ducks looked in only their first game under Boudreau and I really cannot imagine another seismic shift in overall style. We may seem some tweaks to special teams personnel, but I would expect line combinations and the overall look-and-feel of the game to match what we saw on Friday.
And as far as I'm concerned, that's a great thing.