Well the Anaheim Ducks once again find themselves in a best of three series, with home ice advantage. But the thing is, as clearly shown by this series, home ice means crap. Both teams have sucked out the energy from the home crowd by taking both victories on the road.
What we learned from the previous game: First things first, the home ice advantage really doesn't make much of a difference in this series. Both teams performed extremely well on the road this season. What does this mean for the Anaheim Ducks? They have got to reassert the home ice dominance that they once established early on in the season. So this next one at the Honda Center will be another "Big Game" as the Ducks will be looking to not only win on home ice, but also gain a lead on this series with the momentum of the last two wins on the road. Meanwhile, expect the Los Angeles Kings to come out similarly to Game 4's second period with a strong push to stop Anaheim's momentum and regain the series lead.
In both victories on LA ice, the Ducks took the early lead scoring in the first half of the first period. Playing against a defensive team like LA, the Ducks need to make the early push to open the scoring. Do the same things they did in Game 3 and first period of Game 4...crash the net, create havoc in front of Quick, and the Ducks may very well see themselves with the same results.
Speaking of Quick....While Jonathan Quick was pulled after letting in two after facing 11 shots, I can guarantee the Ducks will see him in net come Monday night. (Bruce Boudreau is gutsy--not so convinced Daryl Sutter is the same.) Game 3 and the first period of Game 4 showed the Ducks that while Quick is good, he can be beaten. Jonathan Quick is good because he is so aggressive in coming out of his crease. The key is to beat him in his own game and take advantage of the fact. He often comes so far out of his crease that he leaves a good few feet of open ice behind him that players can exploit.
It doesn't bear repeating, but Game 3 and the first 20 minutes of Game 4 looked good for the Ducks because they were doing everything right against the Kings. The Ducks stifled the Kings in the neutral zone and forced turnovers that allowed extended periods of puck possession in their offensive zone. And on the forecheck, they won puck battles along the boards and behind the net giving them extra opportunities to cycle the puck and create openings. On the backcheck, they did hell of a job blocking shots (25 in Game 4!) And let's not forget the success on the power plays and penalty kills.
Basically do all that PLUS create chaos in front of Quick and the Ducks will see success.
What needs to change for this game: Looking at the last game, EVERYTHING BUT THE FIRST PERIOD needs to be changed. ZERO shots on goal for the second? Hell no, the Ducks were lucky to be alive by the end of the second. Defending a lead is a dangerous thing with a team like the Kings, who will just come at you in waves.
As highly touted as American Hero aka "Goalie Jesus" aka rookie John Gibson is, the Ducks will have to disregard whoever Bruce Boudreau puts in net and just play the shutdown game that we have seen frequently throughout the series (with the exception of the last 40 minutes of Game 4). Take the middle of the ice and force the Kings out on the perimeter. The Kings will be looking for those rebounds off of Gibson, so the Ducks need to be quick on collapsing and clearing the zone. Specifically, Anze Kopitar has been looking to capitalize on those wraparounds. The Ducks will have to limit the mistakes in their own zone and force mistakes in the neutral zone to win on home ice.
Last words--Stop sitting back and keep charging Ducks!
Roster changes: Mathieu Perrault was back on the ice for practice and was said to be a game-time decision for Game 5, while Matt Beleskey and Frederik Andersen are still out.
BB says Andersen and Beleskey (lower body) won't be available. Perreault said he's better but will be game-time decision.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) May 11, 2014
Fearless prediction: Another game, another Gibson shut out, another hit to fancy stats. All hail puck luck!