Date: Sunday, October 28th, 2018
Time: 1700 PT / 2000 ET
Location: Honda Center
TV: FS-W, NHL.TV (Free Game)
The Other Mob: San Jose Sharks
Each and every season is a tale that can be told from two perspectives. Like ying and yang, black and white, war and peace, Felix’s hot takes and Jake’s rankings, there is a good side and a bad side to the season that can be narrated.
This will be the second meeting between the Ducks and the Sharks this season, and like north is different from south, so too are the fans’ expectations polar opposites coming into this game from the previous. That first meeting was the first game of the season. Expectations overflowed, the promise of victory prominent. After starting the season with a 5-1-1 record, the hunt has not resulted in victory. The result has been firing up Twitter with increasing ire and gnashing of teeth, hounds are baying and the fox is running. Heading into this game facing the elusive quarry called The Win, fans’ expectations are somewhat more tempered. Can we just make it through 60 minutes without being blooded?
Having lost the last 4 on the trot and with their overtime victory the only thing keeping the Ducks above .500, fans merely hope for a good showing this time around. We can dream. That John Gibson won’t keel over and die on us from rubber poisoning. That the Ducks may even hold onto the puck a little. That they may even generate some quality, entertaining, offensive plays. That, win or lose, and natural fans would prefer a win, all fans really want to see is improvement. A glimmer of hope that the next game will be better, and then better again the next game after that. A tangible improvement, if you will.
The fox is wily, though, and taunts us at every turn. The Sharks enter this game after taking the L against Carolina. The league’s best team for shot attempts (Carolina) played the 2nd best team (Sharks), and the league leaders absolutely smashed them off the ice. Yes the game went to the shootout, but I don't think that anyone who saw that game had the Sharks in the frame after the first period. The Hurricanes were absolutely incredible. Thus, the Sharks enter this game against a team with historically bad shot metrics, looking to redeem themselves. Only the Capitals’ team of the 84-85 season has had worse shot differentials than the Ducks do this season. The Sharks will be looking to ensure the Ducks go down in history as the league leaders in this category. Expect to see them all over the Ducks like a cheap suit, pumping shot after shot, goal after goal, into their hapless victim, John Gibson.
It seems implausible, but Joe Thornton is traveling with the Sharks on this road trip. He did not play against Hurricanes, but his traveling does suggest he’s nearing a return. We know from past experiences that he is a man capable of playing through pain and on busted knees, thus it’s definitely in the cards that he could suit up against the Ducks. Should he be ready to go, expect Joe Pavelski to move back to the wing, and for Thornton to once again take the 1C spot.
So with all of the stats in the world stacked up against the Ducks, what can they do to escape this game unscathed? Can they rediscover the scent of victory?
Benny’s Keys to the Game:
Firstly, some hope. 64% of teams win at home in the NHL (keep that in your back pocket when you decide you want to start making an income by gambling - not that I condone gambling, but have you seen the odds for this game?). With this alone, the Ducks are in the box seat to win this game.
Secondly, John Gibson’s stats improve when he faces in excess of 40 shots per game. Both GAA and SV% improve. The more work he has to do, the more his focus improves, his positioning sharpens, his hair grows more lustrous.
Thirdly, the Sharks net-minders are not awesome. They’re league average, for sure, but that just means the Ducks can get that lucky backhander to go through the wickets. Even without peppering the Sharks net-minder with rubber, they have a chance to sneak the odd goal in. They will very likely be attempting to do this without Max Comtois, and the newly returned Nick Ritchie.
Max Comtois, Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie and Carter Rowney are not skating. Ducks really thin on the wing.— Elliott Teaford (@ElliottTeaford) October 27, 2018
Although it appears that there’s half a chance that Jakob Silfverberg will return.
Jakob Silfverberg (finger) is back practicing with Ducks. Looks like he could be ready to give it a go. Jacob Larsson and Andy Welinski have been recalled.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) October 27, 2018
So to summarize, for the Ducks to win this game, they need the crowd to go wild and hopefully sway the refs just a little. They need Gibson to be the guy that he is, but more handsome. They need to get a little lucky. They need to race at the blow of the horn as if there’s a catch at the end of the run worth sinking their teeth into. If they can do all of that, they just might be able to pull out the W and walk away from this game above the .500 mark. For a team so crippled with a lack of available talent, that might just be enough to keep the fans appeased, and for Coach Carlyle to keep the hounds baying for his blood at the door held off for just a little longer.