Thursday, March 8th, 5:00PM PST
TV: FS-TN, PRIME
Radio: AM 830
The Enemy: On The Forecheck
I don’t want to jinx it, but the Ducks are making some noise recently, and no, I don’t mean quacking. Anaheim is suddenly making a splash (pun totally intended) in the Pacific and are currently sitting in second place after an impressive 4-0 win over the Washington Capitals. In their last 9 contests, the Ducks are a solid 7-1-1 with a league leading 1.78 goals against average thanks to stellar performances by John Gibson. Going back even further, the Ducks are 20-8-4 in their last 32 games. The Anaheim defense is starting to come together, special teams play has been rock solid of late, and multiple lines are presenting themselves as scoring threats. Needless to say, Anaheim has been playing great hockey and looks poised to finish the season strong to capture a playoff seed. However, their trip to Nashville can either help build their confidence or completely exploit them as a playoff pretender.
The Nashville Predators are recently coming off a shutout victory of their own, a 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars. The Preds currently sit atop the Central Division with 95 points which only trails the Tampa Bay Lighting (96 points) for most in the NHL. The Preds have been scorching hot lately as they have reeled off 9 consecutive victories setting a franchise record. As with the Ducks, the Predators’ recent success can be attributed to their netminder. Pekka Rinne has been a beast lately with a record of 17-1-1 in his last 19 games as well as recording 7 shutouts this season. He has been an absolute thorn in the Ducks’ side the last few seasons, especially in the playoffs, and I anticipate him bringing his A-game once again.
All Eyes On Me
John Gibson - Gibson has been a stud in net the last few months, and if not for being limited to 49 games due to injury, he could be considered in the Vezina conversation. Since the All-Star Break, Gibson is atop the NHL in SV% (.953) and is only second in GAA (1.55). He currently has set a personal career best with 6 consecutive victories. If that's not impressive, in his last 10 starts, he has only allowed 2 goals or less 9 times which includes 2 shutouts. To top that off check out his sweet hair flip.
The Duo of Ryan Getzlaf & Rickard Rakell - Rakell has been on a roll scoring in his last 4 consecutive games with 6 goals total. The man helping set him up is Getzlaf. Getzlaf has had multiple assists in 3 straight games and has 10 total assists in his last 6 games.
Keys To The Game
The Ducks need to strike quickly as they did against the Capitals. If they’re able to come out strong and draw first blood and get under Rinne’s skin, they have a solid chance of earning some points in this game. The Predators have outscored their opponents 39-18 during their current 9-game winning streak and have been comfortable playing with leads. That makes it more imperative that Anaheim is aggressive early and sends people to the net. If Rinne is allowed to get into a groove and can cleanly see shots, it could be a very long night for the Ducks to generate offense.
The Ducks will need their strong special teams performance to carry forward into this matchup. For a team that likes to take its fair-share of penalties, the Ducks penalty-killing unit has been incredible lately. With 25 consecutive penalties killed, the PK unit will need another stellar performance as this game will most certainly be physical, and the Ducks have been on the wrong side of calls this season.