Not only does Edmonton suffer from crappy weather, but on top of that, they are now suffering from crappy hockey. The Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers couldn't be on more different paths....One team has clinched a playoff berth, ever so closer to glory; while the other team has disgusted fans throwing jerseys on the ice and the players throwing those jerseys back. The Oilers started their rebuild process a while ago....hoping that a few years of throwing young talent on the ice would soon amount to a team of Stanley-Cup contending super stars. That plan has yet to come to fruition.
Keys to the Game:
This doesn't need further repeating...this is another one of those "should win" games...which means the Ducks are prone to fall into the trap of seeing it as a "we will win" game....which could possibly result in a "sorry, were we expected to actually play hockey?" game =aka trap game. The difference here is that this isn't just a mid-season Pacific Division match-up. This is a game with a must-win two points on the line for the Ducks who are trailing the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division title.
But the Ducks aren't the only ones that have something on the line....The Oilers are not only looking to avoid their 12th straight home loss, but also seeking a first home win over Anaheim since 2007. The Ducks have humiliated the home team by outscoring them 18-3 at Rexall Place in the last five meetings. You can bet the home crowd will not welcome the Ducks in white.
Don't be fooled by endless tears of the Canadians in Edmonton nor the low standings of the team...the Oilers do have some top-level talent on their first line. The Oilers' defense may not amount to much (suck it Schultz), but they can be very speedy up front with the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And as we all know, the Ducks haven't fared well against extremely speedy lines of speedy teams. Fortunately for the Anaheim Club, Edmonton has yet to figure out how to mesh well as a team and has a shit defensive corps that leaves their goaltender to the wolves (or Ducks in this case).
With recently traded ex-Duck Viktor Fasth once again injured (the guy just can't catch a break), the Ducks can bet on seeing ex-King Ben Scrivens in net. The guy is no pushover and can hold his own despite the lack of support in front of him. The Ducks should take care and exploit the weak defense of the Oilers, and work on dominating the puck possession to barrage Scrivens with shots. Despite barely pulling out with the win Wednesday night in Calgary, the Ducks exhibited some pretty poor play in their own end, especially in the first. Crisp passing, good discipline and simple play should suffice to get past this team.
What Can We Learn From this Game:
Just because the Ducks won the two points in Calgary doesn't mean they should be extremely proud of their sloppy play. The Ducks need to use each game to build momentum and continue to improve. This is another game with another two crucial points on the line. I'd rather see the Kings and Sharks beat the crap out of each other in the first round before facing either of them.
Bruce Boudreau is using this segment of the schedule to give rest to his players (began in Calgary with Francois Beauchemin, Daniel Winnik, and Matt Beleskey sitting as healthy scratches. Mark Fistric was dealing with a nagging injury.) BB mentioned wanting to sit Hampus Lindholm out in a few before Cam Fowler was hurt. But with Robidas drawing into the line-up, it should be interesting to see how he mixes up the forward lines and blue line pairings in the next several games. Teemu Selanne will draw into the line-up in Edmonton and sit out Saturday's back-to-back in Vancouver.
Fearless Prediction: Do I dare say the Ducks score a FOURTH power play goal in their FOURTH game?
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.