The Anaheim Ducks have made me a very sad panda. I went into Game 2 pumped. I had this exuberant confidence that the Anaheim Ducks have finally figured out what adjustments needed to be made to actually 1) Score; 2) Prevent the San Jose Sharks from scoring.
That lasted about five minutes before it all went to hell. Sure the Ducks put one up on the board via a fluky goal. And fluky goal or not, I celebrated like no tomorrow (mind you it was the first Ducks goal this post-season). But that goal seemed to wake up the Sharks, and the nightmare began. To me, it literally looked like the Sharks had been practicing at Honda Center for the entire season, while it was the Ducks’ first time stepping on that ice. The Sharks intentionally used the Honda Center bounce against the Ducks to put up their first goal. And they had several more attempts after that. The 3-2 final tally is misleading because Gibby stood on his head to prevent the gap from widening.
Look, there is a reason that the Anaheim faithful largely sided with a favorable outcome. The Anaheim Ducks have everything at their disposal to win this series. I think it was a popular consensus that this was going to be a good and close match-up. The Ducks definitely have the goaltending because, while Gibby may want a few of those goals back, the margin could be a hell of a lot larger. And although the Ducks are without Cam Fowler, they figured out how to win without him at the end of the regular season. The coaching staff were strategic with their pairings and the ice time of the pairings. And we know the Ducks have the potential to become an offensive juggernaut at any time in the game. These are all pieces we have seen develop and appear throughout the season.
A Few Adjustments
After the Game 1 debacle, the Ducks made a few adjustments towards becoming a more physical team in order to beat it out of the Sharks. It worked for the first five minutes of Game 2. It looked like they were beating the crap out of the Sharks, knocking off helmets and making them look like rag dolls against the boards. But what makes this such a good match up is that the Sharks are different from the LA Kings. They’re smarter, and while they can play a game of grit, they can also play a game of speed and efficiency.
The winner of this series isn’t just going to be the toughest and baddest. In fact, it’s really going to come down to which team can play the smartest and strategically adjust the quickest against the opposing team. And right now, that’s the San Jose Sharks.
1. Be Better Along the Boards
The Sharks are completely owning the Ducks defensively. Through the past 2 games of the series, they’ve completely throttled the Ducks in the neutral zone, and forced the Ducks to just dump and chase. Which is all good and fine, if you actually chase and win along the boards. The problem is that the Ducks are not doing that. They miss passes and just plainly miss the puck along the boards—literally miss the puck. This is rookie-level stuff you see in rookie league, not in the NHL. It’s a small adjustment, but it’ll really help with puck possession in the offensive zone.
2. Stop Being Pretty
No one needs to make the top 10 highlight reel. It’s the playoffs for goodness sake. Cut the fancy sh** and shoot the puck, crash the net, and get in the dirty areas.
Along those lines, I’m so sick and tired of the whole, game of hot potato and shoot from the perimeter area all day (we’ve seen this happen during the regular season)—the Sharks are perfectly content allowing the Ducks to do this. But to hell with that. That is wayyyy too easy. What the hell are they afraid of? Get in there, create traffic, and look for a tip. Or a rebound. Or a bounce off the boards. Something other than just a blue line slap shot with a clear view.
The Ducks are at their best when they are crowding the crease and making the D corps’ lives miserable. Too many missed opportunities, especially during the power play because the Ducks are just trying to get too fancy. Fancy plays don’t earn extra points; goals are goals.
We’ve harped on this all season long. Penalties. Come on guys. The Nick Ritchie trip. The Corey Perry interference towards the end of the 3rd period of a 3-2 game. I get angry even thinking about these penalties because they are downright stupid and completely unnecessary. And against a team like the Sharks, they are going to cost us.
4. Lineup changes
The coaching staff—this is for you. We may need to reconsider who we have in our back pocket that can spark some offense and help support defensively. The current lineup isn’t completely broken, but there needs to be some change.
This is the playoffs. No team has the buffer of 82 games to make these little mistakes.
Writing this article actually got my blood boiling. We had a chance during Game 2. The Sharks were able to adjust to the Ducks’ style of play and get the better of them. Now it’s time for the Ducks to make these small adjustments and force the Sharks back on their heels. Game 3 at Shark Tank is a must win situation. The Ducks were in this exact same position a year ago against the Edmonton Oilers. It’s up to them to muster up the will power and just make less mistakes on the ice.
Puck drops in San Jose at 7:30PM PST tonight. Let’s Go Ducks!