It's been somewhat of a rough homestand for the Anaheim Ducks who went 2-1-2 post-Olympics. After losing the last three games (two in a shootout and the last in regulation), I'm already getting sick of hearing the, "This is what happens when you mess up the team chemistry by trading Penner" rumblings....So do me a fatty favor Ducks and prove that you can still score and win without Dustin Penner. Thanks.
A couple things to point out before I proceed to the keys to the game....This will be former Calgary Flames' Tim Jackman's first return back to Calgary after being acquired by the Anaheim club back on November 21st in exchange for a 6th round 2014 draft pick. Whether he actually cracks the line-up to play against his former team is another question.
This Flames team will look slightly different from the Flames team the Ducks played back in November:
Reto Berra: The trade deadline led the Flames to deal netminder Reto Berra to Colorado. Not that Reto Berra was spectacular in any form, but it was a bit of a surprising move when the Flames decided to deal away the man who looked to be their number one. Karri Ramowas supposed to fill in but is currently on the shelf due to a knee injury.
- So the Ducks will be facing against one of two new goaltenders who have been called up to the Calgary club....either Joey MacDonald or Joni Ortio.
TRADED: Despite the trade deadline speculation, the Ducks will continue to play against Mike Camalleri in a Flames sweater. However, the Ducks will no longer have Lee Stempniak as a division rival since he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Keys to the Game:
Flames are not looking so hot to say the least. The team has been shredded by trades and marred by injuries. The Flames DO NOT HAVE Jiri Hudler, Curtis Glencross, Kevin Westgarth, and goalie Karri Ramo due to injuries. Also, Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon left early in Monday night's game against the Los Angeles Kings. Matt Stajan is taking a leave of absence due to personal reasons. The Flames are depending on two average goaltenders that have limited experience with the Calgary club. What I am saying is if this is not the game to break the tiny string of post-Olympic losses, then I don't know what is....
Another key is...wait for it---Special teams. *collective sigh* You know that general hockey cliche that special teams are going to make a big difference in close games and come playoff time? Yeah, the Ducks need to get on that. You know it's a problem when fans are groaning instead of cheering on the man-advantage. Special teams is looking a lot like the first half of the season, minus the nice even-strength goals that brought us ahead on the scoreboard. Speaking of scoring....
The Ducks have attributed this season's success on the team's scoring depth. But now, Corey Perry seems like the only one who is able to find the back of the net. Duck fans around the world were laughing at our cross-town rivals right before the Olympic break for the same reason we are all crying right now. Shooting a ton, but no dice.
One of the biggest factors to those stats have not gone unnoticed by Bruce Boudreau...after Monday night's loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs, BB pointed out: "When a goalie is sharp and you don’t create traffic in front of the net where he can’t see the pucks coming, you’re not going to score. He was seeing everything. He was stopping everything. You can only talk about so much, but if you want to score goals in this league, you have to go to the front of net and pay the price."
Tell 'em Bruce--so I don't lose my voice screaming out "Where's the [insert expletive here] traffic?" or "Set those gawd damn screens in front of the net!" I will say there was one thing that the Ducks lost when trading Penner...the physical and gnarly man screening the goaltender. The thing is that there are plenty of players that can fill in that roll. *coughtMAROONcough* The Ducks simply need to be much more aggressive in crashing the net for any rebounds and making life difficult for the opposing goaltender. Even a rookie goaltender will look good if there is no traffic between him and the puck [Ed. Note: See Tokarski, Dustin and Jones, Martin. -CK]. Don't afraid to get dirty.
What Can We Learn From this Game: Fine, this game will prove whether the Penner trade was terrible and stupid or harmless. Basically, it will either quiet down Penner-trade-haters' tweets, or give me more headaches. If Penner really is the reason that the Ducks no longer can score, then I guess all those depth scoring arguments for initial season success go down the drain right? WRONG. We can learn that Penner's trade remains a non-factor and that the Ducks can still achieve the same success as a team with Penner.
But in all seriousness, the Ducks can't afford to drop any more of these kind of games. Competition is only getting stiffer as each game passes by. Each victory and two points is crucial seeing as the Pacific Division has become such a close race. It's pretty evident that frustration is beginning to set in on Ducks' faces--the Ducks are going to have to dig deep and not dwell so much in the past games in order to show up to play another team.
Fearless Prediction: This is truly one of the most fearless predictions I can hope for....The Ducks finally figure out that PP means having a man advantage, thereby learning to score. Twice. Hell, thrice.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.