The Anaheim Ducks came out with new-found eagerness and determination to finish and win the two points against California rival San Jose Sharks. They stressed the need to not only to win points, but to take away points from Pacific Division opponents so as to stay within view of the wild card and top seeds.
John Gibson and the Ducks were able to hold the Sharks at bay, coming out with a 1-0 shutout win. Now they welcome the star-studded crew from Pittsburgh. At this point, it's not just about the points, but about continuing to find ways to win to get the Anaheim club back into a groove of consistency.
Ducks: Friday, 12/4/15 vs San Jose Sharks. "Gibson tosses another shutout in 1-0 Victory over San Jose."
The Ducks were able to find a way to take the W and the valuable two points from the Sharks in a Friday night Pacific Division matchup at the Honda Center. After staying tied for the first two periods, the fourth line and Mike Santorelli were able to put one goal past goaltender Martin Jones. The rest of the third period belonged to the Ducks as they completely shutdown the Sharks defensively with their relentless forecheck, holding the Sharks to only 2 SOGs. It was hands down the best third period played by the Ducks defensively.
Notice I did not just leave it as "best third period played by the Ducks"--I emphasize defensively because that's exactly how the Ducks found the way to win that game. What was impressive about the game was their ability to shutdown the Sharks offense by pushing them back with an unending wave of offenses from the top 3 lines. Unfortunately, this is where I point out that despite the clutch forecheck performance, besides the Santorelli goal, all other shot attempts and pass-and-go options came out empty.
I am by no means discounting the Ducks' impressive ability to play real shutdown defense (during that third period), but the lack of overall scoring, ESPECIALLY from guys that are being paid to score, is a problem. Sure the Ducks were able to clamp down defensively and hold the lead, but what happens when the Ducks are down against a team that has their firing power out, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's not only about finding a way to hold onto the lead...it's about finding ways to win while scoring goals AND holding onto a lead.
The Penguins will be traveling across the 405 after a back-to-back bout against the Los Angeles Kings. But don't expect this team to be too exhausted or weary to play. This is a team is headlined with stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and recent off-season trade Phil Kessel. Anaheim will also welcome back familiar faces in Ben Lovejoy (The Rev), Nick Bonino (Bones), Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cullen.
Before playing LA, Pittburgh's powerplay had been on absolute fire. They had built a 7 consecutive PPG (8-for-30) by finding the best attempts on net with the first unit consisting of Crosby-Malkin-Kessel-Hornqvist-Letang. With as an efficient and dangerous power play unit as this, it should be interesting to see how the Ducks' league leading penalty kill unit fares against this powerhouse. That being said, one of my criticisms of the San Jose game was the lack of discipline shown during the first period by the Ducks taking needless penalties and giving the opponents 2 minutes worth of chances and momentum. It is rather a relief that the Ducks' PK and goaltending has been up to par since the team currently stands 4th in league in penalty minutes. Despite Anaheim's 87.5% PK, I still remember very well how the team can be dismantled by a more efficient powerplay unit (see Anaheim in Tampa Bay for reference.)
While the Penguins saw Olli Maatta back to the lineup, Letang remains questionable, as he did not play against LA. The Penguins have struggled a bit defensively in the past month seeing as they've had their share of injuries on the blue line and seen a juggling of defensive pairings. It still remains to be seen whether Letang and Pascal Dupuis will skate in Anaheim.
Who's hot? Malkin and his line. I'm assuming that Bruce will match the Hags-Horcs-Hags line against the Perron-Malkin-Kessel. Up to yesterday, Malkin had at least one goal in his last four games, and seven points in total over that period (5G-2A).
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.