GAME # 71
Wednesday, March 14th, 7:00 PM PST
TV: PRIME, SNP
Radio: AM 830
The Enemy: Nucks Misconduct
The Anaheim Ducks will look to right the ship and get things moving in the right direction once again on Wednesday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks. The Ducks have lost three straight games in regulation, and with the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings refusing to lose, the Ducks find themselves outside of the playoff picture looking in before the puck drops for this contest against the Canucks.
152:09. That’s a lot of minutes on the ice. That’s also how long it has been since the Vancouver Canucks found the back of the net. At the 7:51 mark of the 2nd period, the Canucks found the back of the net through Jussi Jokinen against the Minnesota Wild. That game was on March 9th. They have played the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings since, being shutout in consecutive games.
The Ducks have the perfect opportunity in front of them to be able to find some confidence, get the offense rolling, and find some defensive pairings that actually work against a struggling offense (looking at you Carlyle). That probably means Marcus Pettersson back in the lineup, with one of Kevin Bieksa and Francois Beauchemin being a healthy scratch. The Ducks were doing fantastically with the rotation of one of those two out of the lineup, and things have shockingly gone south since they were iced together as a pairing.
Of course, the bottom defensive pairing can’t be blamed entirely for the struggles the Ducks have been facing recently, but they sure as hell aren’t helping and Randy Carlyle needs to see it immediately. Leadership is great and all, but enough is enough when you want to also preach limiting turnovers and better puck management. You want puck management? Stop giving Kevin Bieksa minutes. ESPECIALLY if Francois Beauchemin is also going to be on the ice at the same time.
I digress. On to the focus.
All Eyes on Me
For this game, I will be watching the entirety of the defense. The Canucks are struggling offensively and will be looking to find ways to beat John Gibson to get themselves on the board. This will partly be up to Randy Carlyle to make good decisions about who will be in the lineup and who will not, but also how the team handles the puck in the defensive zone. As much as I hate to say it, Carlyle was right in pointing out that the Ducks have given opponents too many gifts in recent games. Take those away and the team can get back to controlling possession and getting their cycle game working in the offensive zone.
Keys to the Game
Special Teams - The Ducks have looked shaky on the penalty kill recently, and what better time to fix that issue than when you’re playing against a team that has entirely forgotten how to score! (Capitalize on the power play too, those goals are always nice).
Defense - This appears to be a theme for me in this game, in case you skipped ahead to the keys without reading the rest. The team needs to find ways to play better in front of John Gibson and stop forcing him to do all the work in order for the Ducks to get two points. Smart passes, less turnovers, better net-front coverage, less goals against.
Top Line - The top line has been the main offense for the Ducks in recent games and while it’s not typically a good thing to rely on one source for offense, the Ducks need to take the goals where they can get them right now. And right now, that appears to be through Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. If they stay hot, the Ducks should be able to find a way to win enough games to get into the postseason. But hey, that’s the optimist in me.