Date: Friday, November 23rd
Time: 1:00 PT / 4:00 ET
Location: Honda Center
The Enemy: Copper and Blue
Did you know that crude oil prices have tanked to their lowest prices in more than a year? A barrel of liquid gold now runs just over $50. C’mon gas prices, keep falling!
Edmonton currently sits two points behind the Ducks in 5th in the Pacific Division. Like pretty much every other team besides the Kings, they’ve sat in a playoff spot at one point during the season, because no one in this division wants to actually play consistently good hockey.
At the top of the scoring table, the usual suspects stake their claim for the Oilers. McDavid leads the team with 31 points (13G, 18A) followed by Ducks-killer Leon Draisaitl at 26 points (13G, 13A), then Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 20 points (5G, 15A). After that, a massive drop-off mimics the price of oil with Alex Chaisson coming in at 9 points. Safe to say that Edmonton is the definition of a top-heavy team.
This afternoon’s game will also give the Ducks a chance to see how the Oilers fare against them with a new boss behind the bench. On November 20th, General Manager Peter Chiarelli fired head coach Todd McLellan and replaced him with former St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars Head Coach Ken Hitchcock.
While McLellan certainly had his faults, the move reeked of a general manager desperate to keep his job and who has steadily gutted his roster of actual talent for...reasons? Chiarelli firing McLellan is like a doctor treating a minor cold for a guy who had the sniffles but also had a couple of his limbs chopped off by the same doctor.
Hitchcock is known to the league as a coach who’s teams play smart, defensive hockey. Which would be great if this were the year 2012. Just look at the Dallas Stars under Hitchcock, who had plenty of offensive firepower but basically stopped scoring when he took over. It didn’t help that the Stars didn’t have much in the way of defensive talent either.
Sound familiar? Hitchcock taking over a top heavy offensive team without much in the way of defense to speak of? What could go wrong?
Anaheim, meanwhile, comes into the game riding on a small high after snapping their 3-game losing streak with a win (in regulation!) against the Vancouver Canucks.
While John Gibson and Ryan Miller haven’t been as stellar as they were to begin the season, they’re still getting the job done and giving the Ducks a chance to win. Cleaning up their porous defense will go a long way to making their lives easier, though that will be tough with the injuries on the blueline.
All Eyes On Me
Obviously, number 97 (also known as McJesus) is must-watch hockey whenever he’s on the ice. Along with Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula, expect Ryan Kesler to be trailing them all night. Unfortunately, this might not work very well at all, as the centerman only controls 42.13% of the shot attempts and 38% of the scoring chances and allows 56% of the goals to go against him when he’s on the ice. Maybe he needs to listen to his body and rest a bit.
For Anaheim, the top line of Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ondrej Kase has generated dangerous look after dangerous look. Given Edmonton’s issues in their own zone and with goaltender Cam Talbot struggling mightily this season, expect them to get plenty of good chances.
Keys To The Game
- Keep the puck away from McDavid and Draisaitl: This is pretty self explanatory, but when you’re playing against one of the top lines in the NHL and against arguably the best hockey player on the planet, you need to watch your back and keep it away. The less he has the puck, the better.
- Get the top line going: Getzlaf obviously hasn’t had any trouble scoring lately. And Kase has picked up right where he left off last season. But Rakell has been extremely snake-bitten, especially given his good underlying numbers. The goals will come in bunches if he keeps playing the way he has lately. With the top line generating so many good looks lately, putting them into positions to succeed could pay off big time.
- Don’t get caught flat-footed: We all know Anaheim isn’t the fastest team in the West. But with a few guys who can move their feet and with proper positioning, the Ducks can help themselves out significantly by not allowing McDavid and co. the opportunity for odd-man rushes.