On the brink of playoff elimination, the Vancouver Canucks came out Saturday night and played like they had nothing to lose against the LA Kings. As a result, their meager playoff hopes live on for one more game....Let's just sweep them out of their misery and let those valuable two points not go to waste.
Keys to the Game: This is getting repetitive, but here we go again....Heading into the remainder of the season, it is imperative for the Ducks to regain the habit of dominating the first two periods and playing a full 60 minutes. While the Ducks have fared extremely well against the Canucks all season long, they are known to play down to the level of their opponents. Seeing as the Ducks play the San Jose Sharks in the next game, they'll do well to get one full 60-minute game in before facing their Pacific Division rivals on Wednesday.
Cam Fowler's injury has clearly left a vacuum on the blue line. Ben Lovejoy has been lost without his defensive soul-mate, while the rest of the defensive corps have struggled immensely in their own end. Fowler is on the trip with the team and should be returning sometime before the playoffs start, but until then, the blue line needs to figure out how to tighten things up and clear those loose pucks in front of the goaltender.
Bruce Boudreau has been shuffling his lines like mad in the most recent games. Obviously he's trying to find the most productive and balanced line combinations leading into the playoffs. But this is killing any of the chemistry that a certain line may have held. The only thing that is consistent is the inconsistency. Last year, Bruce did the same thing entering the playoffs, shuffling the players through the lines trying to spark something more. In the end, all these moves allowed Bruce to be outcoached.
Like Anaheim, Vancouver has it's own formidable set of [real] twins; Daniel Sedin has been hot, collecting four points in his past five games, while Henrik missed four games before returning to face the Kings. Zack Kassian has eight points in his past six games. And don't ever overlook Ryan Kesler , who although has clearly checked out of the Vancouver locker room, may suddenly decide to show up against the team that he COULD have been part of...(thanks Mike Gillis [Ed. Note: and/or Frank Aquilini. -CK], ya big jerk.)
What Can We Learn From this Game: Jonas Hiller has some absolutely stellar moments in the first half of the season, but his recent string of shaky performances led Bruce Boudreau to rest him for rookie back-up Frederik Andersen. Many have at least begun to lose faith in Hiller's ability to be a playoff goaltender. With Andersen out for at least the road-trip to Western Canada, Hiller will once again have the chance to prove himself as the Ducks' #1 goaltender going into the playoffs.
Like many players, Hiller can be extremely streaky--at times, showing signs of absolute brilliance (see Stadium Series game), while in others, allowing multiple soft goals in a few shots (see the last two games). Clearly he has recently run into one of those "bad streaks"...but if that's the case, this road-trip will be a chance for Hiller to halt the latter and restart a hot-streak before facing San Jose, LA, and Colorado, and into the playoffs.
It'll also be interesting to see how Bruce rolls out the forward lines before the last three games against Western Conference playoff foes.
Fearless Prediction: Clad in a white sweater, Ryan Kesler sneaks onto the Ducks' bench and lights up the board with some drool-worthy moves. Screw Gillis and the trade deadline...and Kesler boards the next plane back to Anaheim.
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