Thursday, February 15th, 5:30PM PST
Radio: AM 830
Your Enemy: Second City Hockey
The Ducks head to the Windy City tonight to take on the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time this season. The last matchup didn’t go so well for Anaheim, being blown out by a score of 7-3.
Anaheim’s recent struggles have sent more panic through Ducks fandom than Patrick Kane coming in on a breakaway against John Gibson. However, there is plenty reason to pump the breaks and realize that the team has played better than their recent record indicates, as laid out in my article yesterday.
With Chicago having dropped their last 7 straight contests, Anaheim will likely be facing a team in desperation mode. This will be far from an easy matchup, so expect the Hawks to come out flying and make the Ducks earn a win.
All Eyes On Me
While multiple lines for the Ducks have been getting the better of opponents in shot attempt numbers, the 3rd line of Nick Ritchie - Adam Henrique - Ondrej Kase has stood out with a 54.58 CF% since January 30th. Those kinds of numbers coming relatively consistently from a bottom-six forward group are very impressive. They give a higher likelihood of depth scoring to create match-up problems for opponents. This is absolutely essential if the Ducks decide they want to actually finish scoring chances and take a playoff spot.
Keys To The Game
Anaheim has been dropping points to opponents they should be defeating—plain and simple. The frustrating part is that the numbers indicate that they really are not playing down to their opponents. It seems to be a combination of being unlucky and making critical defensive mistakes. The Ducks need to clean up their defensive errors (cough put Pettersson in cough) and be ready to take advantage of a desperate Blackhawks team trying to snap a long losing streak.
Head coach Joel Queneville will likely be activating his defensemen and playing with an aggressive forecheck early on, leaving potential opportunities for the Ducks to find holes in the neutral zone. This could allow Anaheim to create odd-man rushes if they can execute their breakouts properly. Crisp first passes out of the zone in these situations will be critical.