If you haven't seen this feature yet, check it out. Take care to keep some tissues at hand as we cue the waterworks.
Regardless of the hatred you hold for the San Jose Sharks, I think all of us hockey lovers can appreciate the sheer awesome-ness of the lengths the Sharks went to make this life-long fan's wish come true. Heartwarming and touching....
But let me cut the love short as the Anaheim Ducks are headed back on the road to the very treacherous waters of the SAP Center Thursday night. After another letdown at the once-feared Honda Center, the Anaheim Ducks are back on the road fighting tooth and nail to keep the lead in the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, while the San Jose Sharks are coming off a disappointing and unusual loss to the Florida Panthers, the boys up north are getting primed and ready at the right time, so it seems.
A couple weeks ago, the Ducks held a comfortable lead in the division and conference. But let's be honest--since the Stadium Series game, the Ducks' play has steadily been slumping. The dynamic offensive scoring has been turned down, while the results of the abysmal special teams have finally caught up and bitten the Ducks in the a$$. On top of all that, Cam Fowler is reportedly out for at least 3-5 weeks with an MCL injury, which is a nice way of saying he's out for the rest of the regular season.
Is it time to push that red panic button yet fans?
Keys to the Game: The last time these two teams met at the Honda Center for a New Years Eve showdown, the Ducks gave us a firework show worthy of ushering in the new year of 2014. After barely holding on in the first period (thanks to Jonas Hiller the Shark Killer), the Ducks shared the goal-scoring love with fans.
Here's my point...same as every game we face these foes....Survive the shark-infested ice in the first period. As we well know and despise, the Sharks like to make a big splash (pun intended) in their first periods. To make things more difficult, the Ducks are playing at the SAP Center, waters which the Sharks are just notoriously good at defending. In every first period against this team this season, the Ducks have looked liked shark-bait desperately treading to keep above the water. For the small hope of grasping at the Pacific Division title, I dearly hope the Ducks will get their s*** together and show up for the first period.
A Cam-less blue line are going to have to work hard on that backcheck to clear the middle of the ice and win battles along the boards to make life difficult for the likes of
Bigfoot Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau from reaching the Ducks' goaltender. The post-Flames Ducks have done a much better job in clearing the traffic in front of the Ducks goaltender, so Thursday night isn't a great time to let up on that. The first and shutdown lines will undoubtedly face the toughest match-ups...so here's where the Ducks' scoring depth comes into play. The Palmaroonino line and that beastly fourth checking line need to bring the same level of LA play to San Jose.
I'm not going even try to get into special teams...for the love of hockey....check out Kyle's post if you want to see how dire that situation really is.
What Can We Learn From this Game: How this Cam-less blue line will look up against an excellent Stanley-Cup contending team...keep in mind the Ducks still have 13 regular season games to play (one of them being against LA and another against San Jose), all of them without Cam the Boy Wonder.
Most important thing...If we even stand a chance in clinching the Pacific...and whether the Ducks will finally be destined to meet their dreaded crosstown rivals in the most epic and fearful first round playoff match-up.
Fearless Prediction: Hiller/Andersen skates from his net pointing the middle finger at the PP unit and single-handedly scores that gawd-damn elusive powerplay goal. Hell yes.
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.