Well, the 2016 NHL All-Star weekend sure lived up to everything and more this year. From the changes to a three-on-three format, to the long-drawn saga of #FreeJohnScott to the Disney-like happy ending of All-Star MVP John Scott, it sure was quite a weekend.
Now that the All-Star break is over, sh** gets real. With only about 30 games more or so left, teams are going to start scrambling, scratching and clawing to make it into the last wild card spots. In particular, the Pacific Division looks to be a tight race. Last time we left off, the Anaheim Ducks were 2 points out of 3rd in the Pacific behind the Arizona Coyotes, with 2 games in hand.
Right before the All-Star break, the Anaheim Ducks left Beantown after notching SIX goals in 6-2 win against the Boston Bruins. Although they had us throwing up our hands in frustration when Zach Trotman scored his season's first just 40 seconds into the game, they quickly turned around and redeemed themselves with four unanswered goals. 11 Ducks ended up on the point sheet, six of them having a multi-point night. Despite facing some considerable pressure, Frederik Andersen looked as steady as ever.
So now what? Every game counts. It's been quite a while since the Ducks were in such a tight spot, fighting for their lives. Perhaps this is a good thing for the Ducks to gain momentum during the time of the season that really does matter--that is if the Ducks can manage to grab a spot into the playoffs....
Ducks: Tuesday, Jan. 26 at Boston: "Ducks Win Third in a Row, 6-2, Against Boston"
Sharks: Tuesday, Jan. 26 vs Colorado: "Sharks Devour Avalanche"
The Ducks looked to be making a good turnaround at the right time, having gone 10-3-1 between the holiday break and the All-Star break. But they have a tough task ahead of them in the remainder of the season, as the Pacific Division looks to be a rat race to the finish. Currently they are 2 points behind the 3rd seed in the division and 5 points behind the second wild card spot held by the Nashville Predators. And of course it is only appropriate that the first team the Ducks will face post All-Star Break is a Pacific Division rival, the San Jose Sharks, who currently sit 5 points ahead in the 2nd seed having played one more game than the Ducks. So basically this home game is pretty damn important, especially considering the fact that this game will be the first against a string of Pacific Division rivals all played within a 4 day stretch.
Right before the All-Star break, the Ducks were on a hot streak. Between Christmas break and this All-Star break, the Anaheim Ducks are five for six, winning the past three consecutive games by scoring 13 goals. From all signs, it looks like the Ducks are finally producing as fancy stats would indicate. Bruce Boudreau has once again shuffled some of the lines, especially now that Shawn Horcoff is out for 20 games. But these new lines seem to be working. And it seems like the Ducks do not have to sacrifice defensive play for offensive results...a fine balance it is! Corey Perry has 10 goals in the past 15 games (not to mention coming back from a stellar performance with the one and only game winning goal in the three-on-three final). Though Ryan Getzlaf has still struggled to find the back of the net, he has found ways to contribute by recording 8 assists in the last 8 games. David Perron has fit in quite well, notching 2 goals and 5 assists in his first 4 games as a Duck. Returning from an impressive performance at the 2016 All-Star game, goaltender John Gibson holds the league-leading 1.91 GAA with a 11-7-2 record.
Despite the recent show of goals, Anaheim continues to stick Boudreau's revised game plan of implementing a stifling defense. The Ducks have a 1.8 goals against average while only allowing 2 power play goals in the past 45.
The final game of a four game series against the Sharks will be played back at the Honda Center. Thus far San Jose has shut out the Ducks once (2-0), while the Ducks consecutively shut out the Sharks in the two next contests (both 1-0). San Jose may have had a rough start to the new year with two straight losses, but have since pulled together an impressive string of wins (8-0-2) to settle into the second seed in the Pacific, only seven points behind the LA Kings.
Boudreau is not the only coach experimenting with lines, as Sharks coach Peter DeBoer decided to split up Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau in order to create depth down the center. Moving up Tomas Hertl up to the first line alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski has sparked six goals and five assists from the kid during the ten game streak. And despite his age, Thornton continues to impress, posting at least a point per game before heading into the All-Star break. The change in lines have definitely helped the offense, as the Sharks now average 2.92 goals per game.
At the same time, the Sharks are still 10th in average the most goals allowed per game. Anaheim will have to continue where they left on in terms of the offensive output and defensive containment to run away with this 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.