Despite our uneven play as of late, the Ducks have dominated the Jets all season. If the Ducks defeat the Jets tonight, it will be our third straight win over the Canadian club, and fourth overall (out of five meetings). After falling 4-1 to the Rangers on Wednesday, we are now 3-2-0 thus far on our eight-game homestand (so much for defending one's house).
Yet, like the Rangers, the Jets appear to be on a roll. Though they squandered a 3-0 lead during yesterday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, but rallied to defeat the Evil Empire 5-4. That victory has now given the Ducks a 6-1-2 record in their last nine games on the road. However, the Ducks have fresher legs, but "fresher legs" is probably one of those hockey cliches like "skating hard" that doesn't really mean anything.
Luckily for the Ducks, Jets starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec has not been playing well as of late (or as of ever, really, but that's a conversation for a different post...). Pavelec did not start in net during his game against the Kings, having allowed four goals each in his last three starts (with an 0-2-1 record). Pavelec's record against the Ducks is even more grim: he is 1-1-2 with a 3.49 GAA against the Ducks, including blowing a four goal lead last year in Anaheim.
Though Ilya Bryzgalov made a surprise appearance in net against the Rangers, Frederik Andersen - and his spiffy new Teemu mask - will start tonight. Andersen, thankfully, has a 5-1-1 record with a 1.80 GAA in his last seven starts.
What Can We Learn From This Game:
We will learn if the Ducks can right the ship before things get further out of hand. The Ducks' 4-1 victory over the Jets on December 13 represents our last decisive victory as of late. Since that game, the Ducks have gone 5-4-1, with victory - or defeat - occurring by the narrowest of margins. Disturbingly, the "clutchness" (yes, I know that isn't a real thing) and effort that has allowed the Ducks to win by narrow margins seems to have evaporated.
We will learn if the Ducks' defense, in particular, is capable of avoiding many of the lapses that allowed the Rangers to victimize them on Wednesday. Francois Beauchemin and Hampus Lindholm have logged heroic amounts of minutes throughout the season, but they look leaden out there. Also, our offensive depth needs to return.
Though I anticipate that Teemu's jersey retirement will likely be more emotional for the fans than for the players, and that the players have likely had multiple opportunities to say goodbye to Teemu, tonight will still probably be a very emotional evening. We will learn if the Ducks can compartmentalize whatever gooey, sentimental feelings they may have about Teemu in order to win a game.
My previous bold predictions, which seem to involve hat tricks by the Twins and other colossal demonstrations of flashy hockey, do not seem to come true (what a surprise!). So, I predict that Ryan Kesler will score the game winning goal in overtime.