Tuesday, November 7th, 7:00PM PST
Radio: AM 830
The Enemy: Jewels From The Crown
During the offseason the Los Angeles Kings sacked their coach and GM, then made a bunch of noise about changing their style and climbing back up the standings. We all laughed and laughed, and it was a good time.
Yet somehow by a cruel twist of fate, it turns out that changing their system from grinding clutch and grab-trap hockey, to a more up-tempo and faster style was the ticket that would propel them to the top of the division in the early season.
Specifically, how do the Kings look coming into the first meeting with the Ducks? Well, Anze Kopitar still looks like a raccoon...oh, hockey. Right. The Kings currently lead the division with 22 points in 14 games (10-2-2), on the back of 7th in the league scoring (wait what?) and 2nd in the league in goals against. Despite this they're currently having a little bit of a bobble on an otherwise stellar season. Coming off an overtime loss to the Predators, and 2 losses in the past 3 games (St Louis Blues on October 30th being the other), the Kings will be desperate to get back to their winning ways.
The Ducks on the other hand are also entering the game in the midst of a funk, having lost all of their games thus far in the month of November. As one of 8 teams to not have a winning record on home ice, the Ducks team should come out with some fire, and hope to creep up above .500, both at home and on the season.
That said, put your hand up if you thought the Ducks would be a .500 team after 14 games with the injuries they've had.
Oh put your hand down you liar.
Ducks have traditionally struggled to score early in seasons before, but then their luck changed and the goals started popping. This has been the story, to an extent, this season as well. It certainly has been fun to follow the cult of Derek Grant and Chris Wagner as they've matched or exceeded their career points (and goals) high, however the Ducks won't get far until their top 6 can regularly and freely start scoring again. It may be in vogue to mock players like Corey Perry and rag on Jakob Silfverberg’s high, left, and otherwise ineffective shot. However, these are the guys that control the Ducks’ fate, so far as they can escape the clutches of the head coach. I’m certain given the usual upbeat and positive nature of Ducks fans that they will be 100% behind them and saying naught but positive works and encouragement. After all, ‘tis only the 15th game. Last season, the Ducks didn't show up until after Christmas. This season, there’s still time.
But for now, “Donny Astricky” said it best, and the Ducks team should take it as tonights catch cry:
All Eyes on Me:
Dustin Brown. Why am I looking at old mate knee’s, instead of young stars Tyler Toffoli or Adrian Kempe? Have the early 2000’s called asking for their game previews back? Well somehow, despite all reason, Brown has had somewhat of a bounce back this season under the new coach. 6 goals and 13 points in 14 games, almost makes you think he's wound the clock back to 2011 when he was relevant. Quietly however, this may not be the case. Certainly, playing a new system and being sent back to superstar Anze Kopitar’s (1.2 points per game pace!) line has helped, yet much of Brown’s scoring came in the early season and in a handful of games. 1 goal and 1 assist in the past 7 games, doesn’t scream consistency. That said, 8 games ago, Brown exploded for a 4 point effort. It would be almost par for the course, on this episode of “That’s so Ducks” for them to leave him all alone in the slot and watch him rack up another multi-point game. It will certainly be a challenge to ensure Brown is accountable, all the while staying out of reach of his uncontrollably devastating knee-seeking-knees. Yet the already injured Ducks will have to toe the line between potentially being crippled and in the infirmary due to filthy, dirty, goon like play, and winning this one game against the hated rival.
Keys to the Game:
Prevent clean cross ice passes through the...royal road. Kopitar can pass, while Toffoli and Kempe can score. I know Ducks are doing the money saving thing were they play without a head coach again, but they need someone to go over some tape from the last 2 seasons and find ways to avoid allowing clean passing across the crease. Its probably worth suggesting to them that not every player needs to collapse into the corner when someone skates it in there, but one imagines that’s just a bad habit they’ve picked up in the past season or so. It can be fixed. The Ducks have clearly emphasized grit and effort over skillful execution in practice this season, judging by the number of poor turnovers they’ve made directly resulting in goals against. This said, they need to try to turn this effort into effective execution, try harder, and get some sticks on pucks to disrupt the Kings offensive flow. If the Kings get a couple early, it will be hard for the Ducks impotent offense to catch up.