After an absolutely humiliating showing in Tampa Bay, the Ducks return home to face another struggling Pacific Division opponent, the Calgary Flames.
Ducks: Saturday, 11/21 vs Tampa Bay Lightning. "Ducks end road trip with 5-0 loss vs. Lightning."
Ah--finally, are these the Anaheim Ducks that we have been longing to see since last year's exist out of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs? I think it might be. That was exactly how I started the last preview for the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning--Dear Lord, did I speak too soon. The Ducks are back to square one after a humbling loss to last year's Eastern Conference Champs. Those garbage 2nd periods will literally be the detriment to this team. While the overall play of the Anaheim Ducks has improved from the start of the season, it is clear that there still remains a large gap from the top.
The Ducks actually played decently, holding their own against the Lightning for the first 20 minutes. But into the 2nd period, the Lightning struck...Not once, not twice, but three times by the end of the 40 minute mark. The precious 90% PK stat first took a hit when Nikita Kucherov found Steven Stamkos WIDE OPEN at the backdoor. Of all the people to leave open on the backdoor, the Ducks had to ignore Stammers. Well, I think we can say that we're all pretty much used to that by now. That brings me to my main point-- the Ducks' protection of the area in front and around the net has just been gawd-awful. Whether it's the inability to skate back into position (see goal #1) or leaving the slot completely uncovered (see goal #4) or just straight up whiffing on a clear (see goal #5), it has just been ugly in front of the net.
And on top of these defensive lapses, not only do we see sloppy offensive, but just a lack of effort and willpower. What was most concerning about Saturday's loss was not the so much the 5-0 shutout, but simply the lack of fight in the Ducks through the last 20 minutes. Yes, we get that the Ducks are down by 3. But there was still another 20 minutes to be played.
Despite sitting one point behind the Ducks in the Pacific Division standings, the Flames have to be feeling pretty damn good about beating last season's Stanley Cup Champions in Calgary.
Although the Flames are not quite close to meeting the hopeful expectations set by last year's playoff exit (thanks to the Ducks), statistically speaking, they have improved possession numbers and are continuing to see growth of their young guns. While they have taken the steps to improve their team by acquiring Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, the results in this first quarter of the season have been underwhelming.
The Flames have given up more goals, more giveaways, and have failed on chances to convert. On top of that, the goaltender situation has not looked too hot for Calgary. Currently, former Duck Jonas Hiller is still sidelined after being bulldozed by another former Duck Bobby Ryan (yeah, you remember him?) So the Flames have had to depend on Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio....Talk about having a tough situation in net.
The Flames have not won a regular season game at the Honda Center since Jan. 19, 2004. Still, all that said and done, the Ducks will have their work cut out back at the HC tonight. They will have to come out hard in the 1st period and take the lead. Exploit the defense, force turnovers, and make life difficult for netminder. Sure this is all basic stuff...Hockey 101. But the Ducks haven't exactly been playing good fundamental hockey consistently. We need to start seeing consistency before we try to make a claim of getting back to the top of the division.
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.