The Anaheim Ducks' hope of starting off the road trip through the Central Division was dashed by the awful outing in Nashville. Desperate and deflated, Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks will have to muster up some sort of willpower and pray to the hockey gods for a little bit of luck as they go enter the state of hockey.
Ducks: Thursday, 10/22 vs Nashville. "Ducks Begin Road Trip with 5-1 Loss at Nashville"
Wild: Thursday, 10/22 vs Columbus. "Five Takeaways from Wild vs. Blue Jackets"
Anaheim will continue on the dreaded road trip through the Central Division, with the next stop being against the one opponent the Ducks were able to earn the W.
Look, we've hypothesized, fantasized, and straight up chastised the Ducks for the unknown reasons for the sh** play we've been seeing since the beginning of season. Defense, forwards, the Twins, Anton Khudobin, Boudreau... All have been blamed at some point since the start of the season.
Ironically, most "analysts" and hockey news outlets had the Ducks going deep into the Cup run. Sure, it's still early in the season, but I can tell you this much...the hockey gods are laughing hysterically right now. How the hell is a team with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Cam Fowler, and Frederik Andersen doing THIS badly?
Well, lucky for the Ducks, they are going into Minnesota knowing they handed the Wild the one regulation loss. Right now, it is pretty clear that the Ducks are shaken up and playing scared. Firstly, the lack of physicality in these first few games is pretty noticeable. You'd think that the big, bad Ducks would want to make their presence known with some physical play along the boards and behind the net, but that is nowhere to be found. You'd think they would want to at the very least make up for the lack of physicality with speed and finesse, but the Ducks have had too many instances of getting caught flat-footed, out of position, and frankly looking out of shape.
Defensively, I do not care what the Ducks color commentators say... The Ducks have frankly looked terrible defensively. Pinching too high and too early has been a common theme among some of the blue liners. The positional play has been off. Not sure if this is attributed to the unstable defensive pairings thanks to injuries moving defensemen in and out of the line up, but this is an area that the Ducks have historically been weak. Adding to the fact that the no one can score, this is becoming a huge issue.
Look, we can go all day and night listing out things the Ducks could do better to see better results. But it really does come down to a couple points:
1) They need to start scoring. No sh** Sherlock. But really... No, not just shooting--scoring. Here's the difference. Yes, you need to shoot to score. But in order to increase the chances of scoring, you need to shoot quality shots. The Ducks haven't done this all too much. The defensemen have been taking a lot more shots from the blue line, but often these are rushed shots with either no traffic at all or too many bodies in line. There are plays in which they literally look like they are playing hot potato with the puck, having no idea what play they are running,
2) They need to start being physical along the boards. Win those puck battles, create those extra possessions and chances.
3) Bruce needs to stop juggling the lines, because it's making him more conspicuous. Splitting the twins, starting Khudobin, etc. does nothing to instill confidence in the front office, the players, and the fans.
4) Play for 60 minutes. Cliche, but true. The Ducks' first periods have not been nearly has terrible as the 2nds and 3rds. Maybe they get deflated once the opponent opens up the scoring, but that kind of mentality is killing their game and their energy. The lack of fight is probably the most annoying thing to sit through.
The Wild are in for a busy stretch as they are scheduled to play 4 games in 6 nights, beginning with their 3-2 win over the newly coached Columbus Blue Jackets this past Thursday. They will need to consider conserving enough for both Anaheim and their back-to-back game against Winnipeg. It looks like Anaheim will face goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has been somewhat mediocre stats-wise (despite his 3-1 record), while Darcy Kuemper will get the start against the Jets.
Part of Dubnyk's struggles is attributed to the slumping Wild defense. Historically a strong defensive team, the Wild have done a poor job taking care of the puck in their zone. Though the Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon pairing looks to be the anchor on the blue line, the Matt Dumba/Jonas Brodin pairing and Marco Scandella/Christian Folin are not yielding great or consistent results. Mike Yeo has cited lack of experience as reasons for these pairings. But the Suter/Spurgeon pairing is beginning to bear the brunt of ice time due to the liability of the other two pairs.
Despite the 4-1-1 record, the Wild's play has not been stellar. The question is whether they will be able to sustain the wins with this level of play. Sure, they've got Zach Parise who has been on fire--counting 6 goals in 6 games. But the problems at the blue line are crucial since the Wild have rooted their identity on a solid defensive game.
Two hours before face off we'll have the game thread up, featuring the full Stat Pack, likely with expected lines, and of course your Numbers For Nerds. Please please please hockey gods, hear our prayers to end this drought!