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On The Road Again

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ARTHUR:

This week's road trip looks like a promising opportunity for this Ducks squad. After all, Anaheim has 6 points in 5 games on the road (compared with 8 points in 9 games at home). But with the team slated to face the Devils, the Blue Jackets and both defending Conference champions, the prospect of winning out seems unlikely. Unfortunately, with so much ground to make up in the Pacific, the prospect of losing out seems unacceptable. Daniel, it's ludicrous to say this in November, but is this a do or die road trip for the Ducks? Or can we still talk 'playoffs' about a team that returns home empty handed?

DANIEL:

I don't think this is a do or die trip, but it's pretty close. Let's not forget that the Ducks went on a 10-2-1 run to end the season last year and make the playoffs. Also, the Ducks are still in a bit of a transition period. Koivu and Selanne are starting to play a lot better together, and as a result, the chances are really opening up for the RPG line. Not to mention improved play from all of the Bottom 6. Penalties are down, which means the PK might be less of an issue. Meanwhile the PP unit is cliking along at 21%. I think the Ducks are showing all the signs of rounding into form. THAT is why this trip is important.

This is a great opportunity to get some momentum going against some good clubs. Pittsburgh and Columbus are division leaders, New Jersey is only 2 points behind the Pens and the Red Wings may be struggling, but I still think Detroit-Anaheim is a budding rivalry. I think the team's confidence is hanging by a thread, and some of the guys have forgotten how to dominate an opponent and keep their face in the ice (see Phoenix's near-comeback on Saturday). If this trip goes poorly, it might send the Ducks back to the drawing board, which means new line combinations, new defensive pairings and probably more losses. The Ducks are looking to get things going in the right direction, but a bad trip might get them mired in another stretch of mediocrity. Is it do or die? No. Is it the most important trip of the first half of the season. Yes.

 

ARTHUR:

Based on everything you've said, i don't see how this isn't a do or die trip.  A team that comes back empty-handed will lose confidence and go back to the drawing board?  That sounds like a team that will continue to fall behind well into December and probably be flirting with last place going into the Olympics.  And if we're already bringing up (maybe even relying on) a 10-2-1 run, I should just take over the blog and start talking Draft prospects now.

 

DANIEL:

Wait.  Every team has ups and downs, and hot streaks carry lots of teams.  Remember how far back St. Louis was at the midpoint last year?  Are you saying there isn't a hot streak on the planet that would breathe life into our playoff hopes?

 

ARTHUR:

I'm saying that relying on hot streaks or being a 'road team' is the sort of denial-soaked folderol reserved for fans that refuse to look their Top 5 Draft pick in the eye.  It's like that person trying to win a coin flip-- 2 out of 3!  3 out of 5!  5 out of 7! --eventually, we'll run out of games.

I'm probably not allowed to be surprised here.  When we did the preseason previews, I was the more pessimistic one, putting this team on a 5th/6th place ceiling because I thought they would spend the first half of the season finding their legs.  But I assumed a team 'finding its legs' would still muster up .500 hockey until it got hot.  If Anaheim comes back from this road trip empty handed, they'll be 6-11-2 and probably struggle through a seven game homestand going into the first week of December.  After that, they'll play 12 home games and 24 road games until the Olympic break.

The margin for error has all but disappeared for this team.  There's no longer time to regroup, and that's well-evidenced by the trade rumors.  Murray seems desperate to get something done long before the trade deadline (when his assets would probably peak in value), and I can't imagine we won't see major moves and a fired Carlyle if this team continues to post losing streaks into December.  That's as do or die as it can get right now.