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Ducks vs Flames PREVIEW: Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Ducks hope hot start can hold up against Calgary

NHL: Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Game 8

Date: Sunday October 20th, 2019

Time: 6:00 PM PT

Location: Honda Center, Anaheim

TV: Prime

Radio: AM 830

Your Enemy: Matchsticks and Gasoline

The Anaheim Ducks improved to 6-2-0 with a decisive 4-2 win Friday night over the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s two straight wins after a frustrating defeat to the Boston Bruins that saw Anaheim outplay Boston for the majority of the game. While many both within and without the organization expected the Ducks to fly south early, they have managed to surprise everyone by playing an up-tempo style of hockey that allows them to create chances and make the most out of having the best goaltending tandem in the league in John Gibson and Ryan Miller. 8 games in both goalies have a .941SV%. and GAA below 2.00 (1.85 and 1.50 respectively).

The Calgary Flames come into Sunday’s tilt fresh off a disappointing game just up the freeway that saw them fall to the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. The Flames came into the 2019-2020 season with high expectations but one significant question. Bill Peters time in Carolina was ultimately cut short by his inability to solve Ron Francis’s goaltending puzzle. Now in his second season as the head coach in Western Canada, Peters will need to show last year’s dominant run that saw them lead the western conference in points was not a mirage. Mike Smith is gone, and that’s almost always a good thing, but Cam Talbot and David Rittich have yet to show they can provide the kind of goaltending needed to ensure the Flames’ high-octane style is a sustainable path to success. Through 9 games, that seems to be in some doubt. Rittich has played his best season from a SV% standpoint but his 2.85 GAA is higher than the team’s 2.6 GPG and I’m not Will Hunting but that seems like bad math. Calgary has too much talent to keep playing at a standings point per game pace, but hopefully they don’t figure that out until Monday.

Keys to the Game

  1. Discipline - Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but penalties are going to be a big part of this game. The Flames are one of the few teams in the league who average more PIM/G than the Ducks. While some of those numbers may be inflated by super serious tough guy Milan Lucic leader-gritting his way into the hearts of Calgary natives, it also reflects Calgary’s presence atop the minor penalty leader boards. Given the presence of players such as Lucic and Matthew Tkachuk, it seems a safe bet that players like Nick Ritchie and Nicolas Deslauriers should get a shot to play tonight to help keep hostilities at a minimum. Whether it works or not is an entirely separate question, but if Anaheim want to be successful, they would do well to let the Flames take the lion’s share of the penalties tonight.
  2. Defense – The Flames may not be scoring 3 goals a game just yet, but that shouldn’t make the Anaheim defense any more excited to play them. The Flames have one of the most talented forward groups in the league and while Anaheim has John Gibson in net, last season showed just how quickly that plan can go south. Limiting both the number of chances, and the quality of those chances will go a long way to getting the most out of Gibson and giving Anaheim a chance to continue their early season success.
  3. Powerplay – The Anaheim Ducks have exactly one powerplay goal, but oh what a goal it was. Ryan Getzlaf and Sam Steel managed to go full Field of Dreams against the Sabres and “have a catch” right in the middle of the game. Two nifty cross-ice passes and a Getzlaf one-timer later, and the Ducks had scored their first powerplay goal of the season. The Flames are going to have their say in how the game unfolds at 5-on-5 tonight, they’re just too talented not to. But if Anaheim can capitalize on a what should be more than a few man advantages tonight, it could just give them enough day light to bag 2 more points and tie the Edmonton Oilers atop the Pacific Division.

Players to Watch

Troy Terry is having himself a bit of a moment. After a strong game against Buffalo that saw him dominate the game for small stretches, the All-American wunderkind was rewarded for his hard work with a nifty little tip goal against the Canes on Friday. Eakins seems to have settled on playing three of “the kids” together by playing Terry on a line with former first round picks Max Jones and Sam Steel. This Kid Line 2.0 certainly has the speed, and thanks to Jones a little size as well, to play against most lines in the NHL. And with Eakins not interested in matching forward lines, they’re going to get the opportunities. What they’re able to do this season will go a long way to determining the kind of season Anaheim can expect this year, and with Terry showing shades of Jakob Silfverberg, he’s going to be a big part of that should they continue to impress.

Future Rocket Richard winner Adam Henrique is another player to watch. Off to a dizzying start this season with 5 goals in 8 games, Henrique is a player in form. While a 50-goal campaign probably isn’t in the cards, Henrique is playing with a confidence and a swagger right now that make him a must watch for as long as it continues. And given that he’s playing on a line with Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg, there are more than enough reasons to tune in.

Matthew Tkachuk is going to be around for a long time. He’s an incredibly skilled player who broke out for 77 points last season, firmly establishing himself as one of the premier pests in the game. Anaheim fans love him for his ability to drive Drew Doughty crazy, and NHL fans of any ilk love him for his knack of showing up in highlight reels. In much the same vein as a prime Corey Perry, Tkachuk has the ability to impact the game in a number of ways, and all of them seem to involve good stick work and the most enraging face in professional hockey. Co-leading the Flames in points so far with 2 goals and 5 assists, the heir apparent to Jarome Iginla’s throne is a must watch every chance you get. His fellow elite left-wing and points leader for the Flames Johnny Gaudreau could not be more different if he tried. The diminutive winger uses his elite speed and skill to generate offense for the Flames. With 99 points on the season last year, Gaudreau has cemented himself amongst the games’ very best playmakers. When he’s on the ice you wont be able to take your eyes off of him, unfortunately for opposing defenses that sentiment remains true for them as well. Factor in that Gaudreau and Tkachuk play on separate lines and Anaheim fans can expect to be highly entertained for the majority of the game tonight. Though hopefully, more with Anaheim’s play than the Flames’ two major play-drivers.