Many words have been written about the Ducks' struggles this season. We've dealt with injuries - to Lubomir Visnovsky, to George Parros, to Bobby Ryan, to Saku Koivu, to Jason Blake (we've missed him, surprisingly), and the list goes on... I have no idea what goes on behind the doors of the Ducks organization (SoCal 24/7, please?), but steps have been taken to fix our myriad problems, with mixed success. We dangled Bobby Ryan as trade bait, only to fire Coach Randy Carlyle and replace him with Bruce Boudreau at the last minute. And most recently, we acquired forwards Rod Pelley and Mark Fraser from New Jersey. Baby steps, baby steps. But if GM Bob Murray really cares about the health of this club, he'll blow up the roster Philly-style during the offseason. I would prefer a to see a totally revamped Ducks roster in the 2012-13 season than to deal with the revolving door of Crunch forwards in our bottom 6 (Brandon McMillan was just sent down today, to be replaced by Nick Bonino. Who's next - Kris Humphries?).
And speaking of the Philadelphia Flyers - and at the risk of receiving a virtual slap from Jen - I think we could learn a lot from them. This team traded their captain, Mike Richards, and his best friend/the team's leading goal scorer, Jeff Carter, for a motley patchwork of young, untested forwards (hmmm...). The trade was viewed as both a mistake and a betrayal, but those young, untested forwards have really shined this season (Wayne Simmonds and the highly underrated Jake Voracek come to mind). The team also boasts a rookie, an aging superstar, a couple of former college hockey players, and Scott Hartnell (Philadelphia's Jason Blake). And despite losing their captain, former Duck Chris Pronger, and likely Rocket Richard candidate Claude Giroux, they've thrived. The Minnesota Wild have also thrived, despite dealing with injuries and suspensions.
But tonight, we play Chicago. The Hawks' greatest weakness appears to be their goaltending situation - Corey Crawford is going through a sophomore slump, but Ray Emery appears to have stabilized the situation between the pipes. Chicago's stars have also been earning their paychecks. Captain Jonathan Toews is a likely Art Ross candidate, and the last time we saw the Hawks, Patrick Sharp scored a hat trick. I won't say who scored the winning shootout goal. [Ed. Note: Now that would earn you a virtual slap.]
How do we beat them? By shutting their stars down. In order to win this, I think that the Ducks will need to play a tight, defensive game. If Toews/Sharp/Hossa/He Who Must Not Be Named strike first, the floodgates could open. It will also be interesting to see how Rockford IceHogs (the Hawks' AHL affiliate) call up Ben Smith fits into their lineup tonight. I personally hope that Kyle Palmieri brought his AHL mojo to Chicago, but I think that the outcome of this game will rest on the backs of our veterans. Look for Teemu to draw some crucial penalties. Look for Hagman to hit the back of the net. A win in Chicago will require a Flyers-esque community effort.
Everyone expects us to lose tonight. Let's prove them wrong. As Shakespeare/Henry V/Teemu said, "Once more unto the breach my friends, once more." Once more, once more, once more - no, about 50 times more, until April and beyond.
Additional stick-taps to Earl Sleek and SCH commenter Zachilles for making the Shakespeare-hockey connection first.