Date: Friday, November 9th 2018
Time: 1900 PT / 2200 ET
Location: Staples Center
TV: SN, FS-N, PRIME
The Enemy: Hockey Wilderness
The Ducks match up against the rolling Minnesota Wild in this one, on the back of a little bit of a mini run themselves. Having won their last two home games, the Ducks will once more be looking make their mark, in what is the fourth home game of a heavily weighted home schedule through the month of November. In this game, they catch a break, facing the Wild as they come to Anaheim on the second night of a back to back.
Thus far the month of November, and in fact the past two games, has shown us two faces of the Ducks. Against the LA Kings, we saw the grind-them-down, no-shot-no-chances style of hockey that made fans want to watch something else, and sports writers develop a taste for a different career. This game, predictably, ended with a loss. Against the Flames, we saw the Ducks trade chances and shots, as both teams played track-meet hockey zoom zooming up and down the ice at pace. The type of game fans love to watch. The antithesis of a coach’s dream. This game would result in a win.
Thus, then, what do we see going forward into this game? I suspect, an amalgamation of both games, for it seems that the Ducks are playing to strengths of their opposition rather than dictating play on their own terms.
Assistant Coach: Get Out The Etch-A-Sketch
An examination of the Wild’s temperament is in order: The Wild will want to come at the Ducks with their skating. They both exit the defensive zone and enter the offensive zone most often by carrying the puck. Their defencemen work hard to shut down the centre of the ice, forcing shots from the outside and from wide angles. With the strong Devan Dubnyk in net, they are able to stop the shot, regain possession and transition into offence. Out of the defensive zone they use all three channels (left, right and central) with equal regularity, making it hard to strategize which of their skaters to shut down. They then carry the puck into the offensive zone, only dumping the puck in, on the rarest of occasions, thus limiting the opportunity for the opposition to regain the puck. All in all it’s a system designed for the modern NHL.
The Ducks will want to slow the game down. Despite having lost the slow-paced LA Kings’ game, and won the much faster-paced Calgary Flames game, the Ducks really weren't in the game much against the Flames. While score effect certainly played a part, from the Flames’ first power play the Ducks progressively attempted to lock themselves out of the game. While the final results show the win, and the shot metrics data that the Flames only had ~60% of the corsi attempts, scoring chances, and high danger chances, all of the Ducks good work was completed in the first frame. Yes, they absolutely had moments of brilliance, and the second period was wonderfully fun to watch, but more often than not it can be said that they were easily outplayed in each of the second and third periods. Thus while the fans will be overjoyed with the win and the return of Ducks hockey (getting out played and still winning), the coaching staff will likely look for a return to the Kings game in which the Ducks had a greater share of the scoring chances, and were able to limit the opposition to far greater effect (despite the score).
It will very likely be a challenge of the coaching minds-both of whom the Ducks faithful are well acquainted with- deciding who wins this one.
Keys to the Game
Get to the net: As stated above, the Wild have been doing a wonderful job of keeping teams to the outside, and taking ineffective long range shots. It is the Ducks’ nature to take a lot of these types of shots anyway, so it will become important for the Ducks’ forwards to crash the crease and bully their way towards the net. Anything they can do to get a tip or create a rebound, will improve the Ducks’ chances of scoring against what has been a strong defensive unit.
Shut down Granlund: The Wild have been scoring by committee this season, with many players up over the 10 point mark already on the season. Mikael Granlund however, is reigning supreme. Leading into last nights game against the Kings, he had 6 goals, 7 assists, in 14 games, and was coming off a 6 point in 5 game binge. He’s fast, skilled, and Finnish. The Ducks’ defence need to shut him down.