It hasn't even been a full week since the Anaheim Ducks left Winnipeg with edge-of-your-seat overtime win last Sunday afternoon. The Ducks barely survived the once-friendly-and-Selanne-faithful city of Winnipeg when Jacob Trouba scored the tying goal late in the third. Fortunately, Kyle Palmieri also had a trick up his sleeve and scored a nifty little game winner from a nearly impossible angle. Shame on you if you cannot recall the beauty of a shot. But not to worry, for I have posted the clip below of the shot that stunned MTS Center silent.
The Winnipeg Jets are no longer the butt of the joke in the Western Conference. They are currently currently sitting in fourth place in the deadly Central Division, trailing both the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues by only four points. The key notable pieces in the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, and Evander Kane have finally find a way to click. One of the main reasons for Winnipeg's 2014 emergence is the success of the goaltending tandem between Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. 24 year old Michael Hutchinson currently leads the NHL in GAA (1.67) and Save% (.941) holding a (6-1-2) record. Meanwhile, starter Pavelec has a 2.32 GAA and a .914 Sv%. Together they hold a .927 Sv%. With the support of this duo, Winnipeg is currently fourth in goals-against-per-game (2.21), sixth in shots-against-per-game (27.8), and ninth in penalty killing (83.9%).
Winnipeg's problem has not been the lack of offensive skill, but rather the opting out for offense by sacrificing defensive play. Well, ever since the arrival of Paul Maurice, the team has worked hard to buy into the new defensive system to prevent getting behind. One particular Jet the Ducks need to watch out for is Jacob Trouba. The kid is the Jets' version of Hampus Lindholm, fittingly they were drafted only three spots away from each other in 2012 (Hampus was sixth overall to the Ducks and Trouba ninth to Winnipeg). He is big, he can skate, and he has incredible puck control. Ducks will have to take care not to turn over the puck to the kid.
As the Anaheim Ducks embark on a five game roadie, they have been able to string more than a couple of victories. Frederik Andersen has been absolutely solid, especially considering that he has not had a break since Jason LaBarbara was listed as injured and Ilya Bryzgalov was signed by the Ducks. Since LaBarbara was activated off IR, I would not be surprised if Bruce gives Freddie a break tonight. Since Corey Perry is once again MIA due to his injury, a couple of Ducks have done well to step up and fill in the gap. Matt Beleskey has exceeded all expectations and is currently tied with Pears for the goal scoring lead with 14. But his success is largely due to playing with top quality linemates like Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. Speaking of, this second line is looking pretty fine. Kyle Palmieri, Kes, and Matty seem to have found chemistry that sparks offense.
The Anaheim hockey club has been busy this past week. The Ducks finally received some good news as defenseman Ben Lovejoy was finally activated off IR. Francois Beauchemin (fractured finger) is traveling with the team and has participated in practices, but is most likely not going to see playing time during this roadtrip. While the injuries have begun to really take a toll, the Ducks still managed to find ways to win--albeit overtime and one-point games, they still were able to take the extra point. Kesler has managed to net four goals and two assists in the last 4 games. Kyle Palmieri is also beginning to heat up as he has notched two goals and three assists extending his point streak to four games. But despite all of these stats, the Ducks have only won by a single point in five of their six game winning streak, not to mention all of their wins dating back to October 24, with the exception of last night.
The point here is that the Ducks will need to go into Winnipeg ready to play a gritty and fast game. They will be coming off a back-to-back from Edmonton, so fatigue is another factor they must overcome. It'll be important for the Ducks to come out strong and fast and force the Jets to chase them. The Jets will be looking to settle into their defensive system and simply hold the Ducks from shooting. The only reason the Ducks got away with a slow first last weekend was because Frederik Andersen was strong in net. Bruce Boudreau pointed out, "It seems like we get more awake when the other team gets the lead." Take your naps and eat your carb-heavy lunches boys, and come out ready to play.
What Can We Learn From This Game?
The last game against the Winnipeg Jets was a game of special teams. Both teams struggled to stay disciplined. Four goals (two for each team) came from power plays. The addition of former-Duck Mathieu Perreault has been a key part of Winnipeg's power play success. To this point, the Ducks gain an advantage if they find ways to rile up the Jets and draw penalties WHILE maintaining their cool. While the Jets' power play looks much improved of late, the Ducks have the advantage with Ryan Getzlaf finding the middle of the ice and the open opportunities. The Ducks can use this game to gauge the status of their special teams unit and try to use this to their advantage.
Evander Kane decides to puck handle wads of dollar bills like a bo$$. And instagrams it. Duh.