Anaheim Ducks @ Dallas Stars
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 5:30 PM PST
American Airlines Center
Radio: AM 830, AnaheimDucks.com
Your Enemy: Defending the Big D
After a successful 3-game stint on home ice, the Ducks get back on the road as they embark on the season’s longest road trip. The roadie starts with Dallas and ends in Ottawa on December 22nd, with 4 other cities in-between.
So, while the Ducks are flying high from their three-game mini streak, I did want to discuss some points of concern that may be hidden behind the wins.
The defense of the Anaheim club has been steadily declining. Perhaps this is the symptom of playing within a Randy Carlyle system, as we all fearfully predicted. The odd thing about all this is that while the team has lost and gained quite a few perimeter players, the core remains, which includes the entire defensive corps from last season. If you think back to last season and the Ducks’ horrendous start, what really began their comeback was the surprising rise of the defensive play. A team that had not recently been highly touted for their defense somehow found a way to shut down teams in light of the struggling offense.
Since the start of this new season, along with a new coach heading an altered roster, Anaheim’s defense has been on the decline. And it’s been a fast decline. Sure, the Ducks may be heading into the holiday break in much better standing than last season—BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall quality of the game has been great. What I mean by this is take a look at the goals being scored against. Too many of these goals are a direct result of 1) slot being left WIDE OPEN, or 2) backdoor being left unwatched. Too often. I don’t exactly want to blame any one particular individual (but I kind of am), but doesn’t it feel a bit too familiar to see the same type of downtrend in another rendition of Randy Carlyle’s team?
Keep watch of those goals scored against the Ducks. Consider whether it was a opportune goal simply as a result of a defensive lapse on the Ducks’ part. Take a look at the uncovered pockets in front of the net. And lastly, study the direction at which the Ducks players’ heads are turned as they get tunnel vision on the puck.
Enough about the Ducks...let’s briefly look at their opponents, the Dallas Stars. From the outside looking in, it seems that Jim Nill has done a pretty stellar job over the years stacking the forward corps with the likes of Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, and Patrick Sharp. But in the salary cap era, the Stars have often loaded up on the front end at the expense of the back end. Besides not having figured out their dilemma in net between the sub-par goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antii Niemi, they also don’t have much standing in front of the net.
But pair those problems with the problem of scoring goals...well then—that just spells trouble for a team belonging to the Central Division. For a star-studded team like the Stars (pun intended), offense should be the least of their problems. This year’s Dallas team stands at 19th in goals for and last in goals against. While it is unfortunate that the Stars have been facing some injuries on their roster, there is a much larger problem that looms on this talented team. The Ducks had solved this problem with defense last season—but the only solution that the Stars can hope to muster is resparking the offense.
In summary, we can assume this match-up will end up being a high-scoring affair.