The New York Rangers will begin a road trip tonight in Anaheim that will take them to the arenas of all three California NHL clubs. The Rangers had a difficult start, winning only 11 of their first 25 games, and allowing 2.76 goals per game (their defense was also ranked 20th in the league). Since that rough start, they have turned their fortunes around, allowing only 1.55 goals per contest (the fewest in the league) and outscoring their opponents by two goals per game. And - here's the scary number - they've won 10 of their past 11 games.
This road trip will test the Rangers' mettle. The Rangers struggled when traveling through California last season, falling 9-2 to San Jose on October 8, 2013 (Remember Tomas Hertl's pants trick and Joe Thornton's "rooster"?) before being shutout by the Ducks 6-0 two days later. Even the normally stellar Henrik Lundqvist has struggled at Honda Center, going 0-2-1 with a 3.89 GAA in his last three road games against the Ducks.
The Ducks, as Lundqvist's record suggests, have matched up very favorably against the Rangers in the past. Furthermore, the Ducks have won seven of their past eight home games after posting a 2-1 shootout win against Nashville on Sunday.
What Can We Learn From This Game:
We will learn if Corey Perry is slowly regaining his form. Despite missing 15 games (stupid mumps and other things), he has scored a very respectable 15 goals this season. During the Nashville game, he scored his first goal since returning from his knee injury. We will also learn if his twin, Ryan Getzlaf, will be able to add any points to his Hart Trophy campaign. He scored an assist during Sunday's Nashville game, bringing his scoring total to 7 goals and 25 points in the past 17 games. And tonight will almost certainly feature an appearance from Frederik Andersen, who has posted a solid 7-1-0 record with a .923 save percentage (as opposed to his season average of .916) in his past eight home contests, dating back to the beginning of December. We will see if he is able to continue his dominance on home ice.
We will also learn if the Ducks are on the way to improving their special teams. Though the power play showed signs of life against Nashville, the Ducks still failed to score. Though the Ducks have been atop the standings for a while, we will have the briefest of playoff runs if we do not improve our special teams. Furthermore, we will need to show more discipline (isn't this always a problem?). Though the Ducks have historically been known for their intensity, too much intensity results in stupid, reckless plays like the the cascade of foolishness that concluded the second period of the Nashville game.
(Also, I am terrified that we have become the Boudreau-era Washington Capitals, but I'll let all of you discuss this aside in the comment section).
I predict that we will continue the time honored tradition of blowing the Rangers out at home. Final score: Ducks win. 6-1. There will be hat tricks from Getzlaf and Perry. And much rejoicing. [Ed. Note: Yaaaaaay... -CK]