Here we are once again....on the cusp of a victory. The Anaheim Ducks will face their stiffest test yet as they head into the
inner gates of hell Staples Center to play against the desperate LA Kings with their backs against the wall. They can either end it right now and claim the crown of California, or take another 10 years off all our lives in a stressful Game 7. First is better--run with the momentum Ducks, run with it.
What we learned from the previous game: The Ducks may have the momentum going into LA--but they will be facing an LA team that has already been in this same position before against the San Jose Sharks in Round 1, four times. We all know how that went....
Since the first two games of the series, the Ducks have been much more aggressive in front of LA goaltender Jonathan Quick--hence, the early results. They need to continue to antagonize him by setting up screens and exploiting the large area of ice behind him when he comes out of his crease, as he so often does. The chaos surrounding the Los Angeles net is allowing the Ducks to capitalize on second chances. While the Twins have done their part in being the usual threats on the ice and negating the counter-threats of the opposing team, the Ducks' forward depth cannot be matched. Points came from all four lines in Game 5. This is exactly what needs to be replicated--rolling all four lines and getting contributions from each one.
And as much as we griped about Game 5's egregious defensive turnovers the Ducks made in their own zone, they also had some great stretches of forcing key Kings defensive giveaways (which consequently ended up behind Quick). The Kings blue line is tired--exploit that by coming back in waves. The LA is suffering from the injuries on its blue line, and as great of a defenseman Drew Doughty is, the Ducks' rolling four lines are taking a toll. The Kings are having an exceptionally difficult time containing guys with speed like Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. Sooner or later, as shown in Game 5, the Kings will start making mistakes or taking penalties.
AC's Kid Ish does a great job summarizing the reasons for the Ducks' success in spite of the Kings outpossessing the Anaheim club: "In summary then. The Ducks got inside on the Kings defense much easier than the other way around. They were forcing the Kings outside through the neutral zone and more or less owning the middle of the ice in transition."
Defensively, the Ducks have done a much better job than we suspected they'd do in the series of pushing the Kings out to the perimeter, while getting quality shots against Quick. It has been said time and time again in a match-up against LA, the Ducks have to take care to control the middle of the ice. The Kings will look to set up quick zone entries and dump ins as they are so accustomed to doing. More than in any other game, this is where we want to see battles won behind the net and along the boards for quick clearings. None of this Bryan Allen hesitation crap we've seen in the past. Along with the emergence of John Gibson, the blocking of shots has been one of the brightest gems of the series, as the Ducks have been doing a marvelous job on the PK as well as on the backcheck in getting sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes. Ice baths and good night's sleep boys, because you deserve it.
What needs to change for this game: This is undoubtedly be the toughest game to play. Not only are the Ducks heading into ultra-hostile territory, but the Kings will be the Kings and come in the most King-ish fashion we have all come to loathe and fear.
But the Ducks can't just cower back and look to only capitalize during the small windows of opportunities; the Ducks need to push back on the forecheck as they have done in the early portions of the past five games. The Ducks play their best hockey when they are pushing for a goal. We've seen it so many times--they score goals when they need to. Just the Ducks need to score those goals early on. There needs to be a level of desperation from the drop of the puck for the Anaheim club to match that of the LA club.
Basically--there have been lots of good that the Ducks can look to continue on. But the good seems to never last more than 20 minutes. The last two third periods of Game 5 and 6 have been downright awful. The Ducks score a couple goals and then sit back and attempt to "defend the lead." This has happened in each of the Anaheim victories during the series, and in each instance, LA nearly came back with the game tying goal. What the f*** are they thinking? Quit that sh**. Please play a full 60 minute game and just close this life-shortening series out.
One last thing...for the love of all things good and beautiful in playoff hockey, will someone cover Marian Gaborik? Honestly...how many more goals will he have to score for the Ducks to notice that he is always lingering around?
Roster changes: Nothing new has been reported thus far on the any line-up changes. No changes with Matt Beleskey's injury. Since Bruce Boudreau has seen a reasonable amount of success with the current line-up including the goaltender, don't expect any changes. But stay tuned for any updates.
Fearless prediction: Ducks miss the empty netter. Again.