It seems like has been forever since we've seen the Anaheim Ducks hit the ice. But the last time we saw John Gibson and the Anaheim Ducks skate out, they were able to hold the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins to 1 goal in a 2-1 victory, making that game the Ducks' first consecutive win in a month.
Now the Ducks welcome the Carolina Hurricanes back to the Honda Center to see if they can continue the consecutive wins before they hit the road back east.
Ducks: Sunday, 12/6/15 vs Pittsburgh Penguins. "Post-Game Notes & Quotes v. Pittsburgh"
Hurricanes: Saturday, 12/8/15 vs Dallas Stars. "Stars blow big lead, defeat Hurricanes on late goal."
The Ducks did not deviate from the lessons learned after the Sharks game when they faced the Sidney Crosby-led crew of Penguins. After playing two solid periods of back and forth offense, they switched to their defensive mindset in the third period. But by defense, I mean offense. Instead of turtling back, they kept up the forecheck and prevented the Penguins from finding the back to the net. Additionally, while there had been concern about the lack of scoring especially from the top forwards who we expect to see score, the first line (Corey Perry) and the fourth line (Chris Stewart) both chipped in to take the win from the Pens.
Speaking of scoring, let's talk about it. Is this really a non-issue or should the Ducks still consider this an area of concern? Is the defense and hot goaltending good enough to make up for this?
Whether the players want to admit it or not, while this may not be a problem at the moment behind hot goaltending, it may very well become a problem as the season gets tighter. The Anaheim hockey club is not built to be a "defensive" team--they are shelling out big money for guys like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg to equally shell out the goals. As impressive as the team's overall defensive play as of late has been, this team was initially constructed around the idea of an offense-first team. While GM Bob Murray traditionally likes to first draft his defensemen, they are all smooth skaters with the ability to play a two-way game. So my point here is that the Ducks are a team that is expected to be an offensive force.
So while we all love seeing solid defensive play, it becomes an issue when the opponent has the lead. This is exactly what we saw for the first half of the season--the inability to score after trailing. This obviously remains a discussion point and a work in progress. At the very least, we are seeing an offensive threat coming from up and down the four lines. Hopefully playing against Carolina will spark some life into the second and third line as it did in Raleigh.
Despite coming back from a 4-goal deficit in the third period, the Carolina Hurricanes were beat by a late power play goal in the waning seconds from Patrick Sharp. And the last time the Ducks faced off against the Hurricanes was a couple weeks back in Raleigh. Behind Anton Khudobin's goaltending, the Ducks were able to bully their way through the eye of the hurricane.
The Ducks cannot read too much into the Hurricanes' 10-14-4 record because numbers aside, this is a very good possession team. They currently stand in 3rd with a 54.7 CF%, while leading the league in FO% and having the least amount of shots against per game. That means that they are able to win the majority of their face-offs, and maintain pretty good puck possession throughout the game so as to prevent too many shots from seeing the goaltender.
So what's the deal with this team? Is it just bad luck? Maybe the inexperience of the young players? Perhaps. But the main culprit is goaltending. Defensively, the organization has been able to cultivate a good crop of young defensemen through their farm club, hence a roster with the average age of 26 years. But the solid defense is being jeopardized by crappy goaltending. While the Canes have have the ability to maintain the majority of puck possession throughout the game, the goaltending has been unable to make stops when shots are finally fired. Carolina stands right behind the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes for most goals against per game. Cam Ward has held a very subpar .893 SV% while Eddie Lack just looks pretty terrible with a 1-6-1 record and a .863 SV%.
It should be a good game to see if the Ducks can score and gain a larger goal differential against a team that has fell into hard times of goaltending.
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.