The last time the Winnipeg Jets came into the Honda Center, they Maple Leafed their way to victory. Although the Anaheim Ducks carried the play and dominated possession, the visitor’s adrenalin-fueled play (driven by their recent coaching change) turned Ondrej Pavelec into a good goalie for one night. He is not a good goalie.
The last few Ducks games have seen this team play a bit better overall. In the past two games, the team has outplayed its two opponents to mixed results—an overtime loss against the Edmonton Oilers and a big win against the Vancouver Canucks. The loss against the Oil is hard to properly explain without recalling Jonas Hiller’s stunning .826 SV%, which is godawful. But the Ducks defensive play in that game was curious at best, as they allowed more shots from the slot than they should have when only allowing 23 shots anyway. (Hiller’s been a little iffy in net since his spectacular game against the St. Louis Blues coming back from the Olympic Break.)
The crux of the goaltending issue is that Frederik Andersen has been really steady in his past few starts. He’s also gotten the harder matchups—he saw the Los Angeles Kings at Staples and faced the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center. That he was scheduled to start the Canucks game after what figured to be an easier game in Edmonton, despite his season record against Tortorella’s club, suggests he has the coach’s growing trust. It also says Boudreau wants Hiller to know he’s not automatic and to up his game.
Keys to the Game: The key to this game from the coaching side is to continue playing the same game. Both the Oilers and Canucks games were outstanding in terms of team play—the Ducks shouldn’t deviate too much from that.
One area the Patos should try to tighten up is in their defense of the slot. A team like the Colorado Avalanche or the Oilers are tricky in that they will cede possession to create rushes or one-off scoring chances. Maintaining zone possession is less important than getting one shot off in the slot—and the Jets play that kind of game. Winnipeg will give Anaheim offensive zone time in this one. The team has to improve its defense against this speedy counter that sacrifices territorial play for high-end chances. (Perhaps not coincidentally, Hiller tends to do more poorly against these types of teams.)
What Can We Learn From this Game: Unless sitting certain guys plays with the pairings again, it looks like Boudreau is going to begin the Robidas-Beauchemin era. This game will be another example of what that means for the rest of the blue. Against Vancouver, it meant Lovejoy and Sbisa had a less defensive role—and they were great. Robi and Beauch saw the likes of Kesler’s line all game, which let the rev and his buddy Luke do all sorts of other things, like not play solely in the DZ.
If the Robi-Beauch pairing stays intact and effective when Fowler returns in time for the postseason, we are going to see really good things from Camerica. Namely, offensive-minded things, like points. THIS HAS ME PRETTY EXCITED.
Fearless Prediction: Teemu Selanne scores a goal. This doesn’t need expounding upon.
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.