Last week, we set these four games up as the Week of Death. Despite not having played their best hockey, Jonas Hiller excepted, the Ducks have managed four of a possible six points but have had to push each of the three previous games to the skills competition. Well, I think we can all agree that last night didn't need to go to a shootout, but it did nevertheless.
Tonight they close out this really tough stretch of games in St. Louis, against a Blues team that trails the Ducks by only two points, but have played FOUR FEWER games. St. Louis is coming off of a 5-1 win over the Islanders, (our next opponent) however their previous two games were losses to the Kings (3-2) and Sharks (6-3).
Keys to the Game: So, you might have heard that Alex Steen is having an ok season. With 32 points on the season (20-12-32) he's level on points with Corey Perry and two behind Ryan Getzlaf for fifth in the league. He's scoring at a pace of 0.7 goals per game and 1.19 points per game, which is kind of ridiculous considering his previous career highs were 0.35 (that's half of his current pace) and 0.71 respectively.
Stopping Steen would be a good start, but this is not a one man or one line team. The Blues have been getting solid production throughout their lineup this season to put them in the league lead with 3.44 goals per game. They're also a very strong defensive team - shocking, I know, with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench - currently sitting fourth in the league with 2.22 goals against per game. So, the Ducks are going to have to be at their best, although I've been saying that all week, and they've found a way to grab points without doing that.
What Can We Learn From This Game: St. Louis is a lot like the Kings in many ways. They're a big, physical team that plays very strong defense and gets production from just about everyone to get it done. Really, the only reason they haven't made a bigger splash in the playoffs the last two years is that they got beaten at their own game by the Kings.
Therefore, the main thing I would like to learn out of this game is if the Ducks learned/adjusted anything from their abysmal performance against Los Angeles on Tuesday. A lot of that ineptitude was due to an inability to get the puck out of the zone and from the defense to the forwards. While that can be blamed on injuries to an extent, the cavalry isn't arriving yet.
Francois Beauchemin is on the trip, but only to work out with the team and get back in game shape (same with Jakob Silfverberg). He won't be available tonight, so the D will have to do something different. I suggest winning puck battles on the boards/in front of the net and not turning it over, but that's easier said than done, I guess.
Fearless Prediction: Shootout, anyone?
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.