The Anaheim Ducks will travel to Las Vegas on Monday night to take on the Golden Knights in the series finale between the two clubs. Vegas has won all three meetings so far against the Ducks, with the closest being the last time the Ducks visited T-Mobile Arena on December 5th, a 4-3 shootout victory for the Golden Knights.
The Ducks are coming off a 3-2 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild, a crucial second point for the standings that came thanks to John Gibson and....*squints*.....Nick...Ritchie? Ritchie potted the shootout winner in the 11th round of the shootout giving the Ducks the second point. And don’t look now, but Nick Ritchie might actually be playing some decent hockey now. Ritchie has seven points (1G/6A) in his last eight games. He has been a +5 over that span, and if the shootout goal is any indication, he might be finding a scoring touch. It would be an EXTREMELY welcome sight for Ducks fans if Ritchie could start playing like the winger he was supposed to be when the Ducks drafted him in the first round a few years prior.
The Golden Knights are coming off a win (shocking!) against the Montreal Canadiens at home in T-Mobile Area, a decisive 6-3 decision. Their offense continues to roll, as it has all season, and the Ducks will need to find a way to keep their offense contained and John Gibson relatively clean. John Gibson has been a workhorse all year for the Ducks and quite frankly, might be the sole reason the Ducks are as close to a playoff position as they are. That being said, the Ducks can’t expect a win if they force him to face 40-50 shots against the Golden Knights offense.
With the San Jose Sharks winning against the Dallas Stars on Sunday night, the Ducks find themselves three points back of 2nd place in the Pacific Division once again. A win against the Golden Knights would be massive, not only for solidifying their cushion in front of Los Angeles and Calgary, but also for making up ground towards San Jose and potentially a home-ice advantage position.
All Eyes On Me
For this game against the Golden Knights, I will be watching the Ducks third line of Nick Ritchie - Adam Henrique - Ondrej Kase. I know they have been a focus recently for many games, but as long as they keep rolling, I’ll keep watching them. With Nick Ritchie finally finding a scoring touch of sorts, the matchups may get even better for Anaheim, with Henrique and Kase already proving that they are both offensive depth threats for the Ducks lineup. Their performance on Monday night will be crucial in deciding if the Ducks leave T-Mobile Arena with anything to show in the standings.
Keys to the Game
1. Find Ways to Limit the Vegas Offense - The Golden Knights offense has been unreal recently, scoring at least four goals in six of their last seven games. The lone exception to this was a 4-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Flyers. Hopefully it has something to do with the color orange and the Ducks can channel those powers into holding the Knights offense to only one goal here as well.
2. Protect John Gibson - As I mentioned above, the Ducks cannot afford to allow a barrage of shots on goal against Gibson and expect to leave with a positive result. The Golden Knights do a great job of creating scoring chances and getting pucks toward the net, so the defense will need to be stout in moving pucks and bodies away from the front of John Gibson. Also, preventing Gibson from getting run over by traffic in front is always a plus.
3. Stay Out of the Box - The Golden Knights have the 9th best power play in the league, and if the Ducks give them too many opportunities, they will find ways to get pucks behind Gibson and it will become a long night for the Ducks. Long story made very short and easy, don’t take penalties. That means you, Nick Ritchie and Kevin Bieksa.