Date: Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
Time: 5:00 PM PT
Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Radio: AM 830
Your Enemy: On The Forecheck
The Anaheim Ducks are coming off a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home at the hands of the Calgary Flames, but still find themselves at 6-3-0 through their first nine games of the season. Their record is far better than many had believed the Ducks would be, and the team has shown great promise for the future.
The new system under Dallas Eakins seems to be clicking and there are only bits and pieces missing that are preventing the Ducks from looking downright dominant. Their loss to the Flames did not go without the Ducks having a number of quality chances in which they either barely missed the net or were robbed by Cam Talbot.
The pieces seem to be there, and once the chemistry is fully developed and the kids are playing with confidence and consistent ability to put pucks in the net, this Ducks team will be a force in the Western Conference.
The four-game roadtrip that the Ducks are embarking on today will tell a lot about where they currently sit among the ranks in the league, as they will play four teams out of the Western Conference that found themselves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. They will start with the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena before moving on to face the Dallas Stars, then the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche, and finally rounding it out with a trip to Las Vegas to face the Vegas Golden Knights.
Throughout this road trip, the Ducks will see some of the league’s best teams when it comes to the style of hockey that dominates today’s game, speed and skill. All four offenses they will face have formidable goal scorers and blue lines to back up the production. Anaheim’s defense will have their hands full containing shots against and preventing their goaltenders from being overrun.
The Predators are currently 4-3-1 through their first eight games of the season, and they have felt like they can improve greatly on the results they have seen thus far. The Central Division is expected to be arguably the best division in the NHL this season and they are home to the defending Stanley Cup Champion St Louis Blues. The Predators are coming off a shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. They fell behind 2-0 after two periods of play but stormed back in the 3rd to force OT, only to drop the second point in the skills competition.
Keys to the Game
Special Teams - The Ducks have struggled on the power play, despite having one of the better penalty kills in the league (currently ranked 12th in the NHL at 82.8%). The power play has only scored once and sits in 30th in the NHL, ahead of only the Ottawa Senators. If the Ducks want to steal points from the Predators in Nashville, they will need to take advantage of the opportunities they get on the man advantage.
Shot Suppression - As mentioned above, the offenses the Ducks are going to face have some of the league’s best goal-scorers. Filip Forsberg leads the Predators in goals with five, and he has only played in six of their first eight games. Ryan Ellis leads the team in points with 11, thanks to the 10 assists he has already accumulated this season. The Ducks have to find a way to clog the lanes in their own zone to prevent the Predators from having a shooting gallery against John Gibson.
Physicality - I know, I know. Physicality and “big boy hockey” is what the Ducks are trying to walk away from. Randy Carlyle’s strategy of out-muscling the competition and winning the battles along the boards no longer leads to victory in the NHL. The Ducks clearly have the ability to keep up in terms of opportunity creation on offense, but the Ducks were able to frustrate the Buffalo Sabres through physicality and ultimately give themselves the chance to hand the Sabres their first (and as of writing this, only) regulation loss of the year. The Ducks may need to resort to similar tactics to win against Nashville.
Players to Watch
The Ducks scratched Max Jones and Devin Shore in favor of Nicolas Deslauriers and Nick Ritchie against the Flames. While I don’t think Nick Ritchie played all that poorly against the Flames, I think the Ducks would be wise to put the Jones-Steel-Terry line back together. Sam Steel, Max Jones, and Troy Terry provide exactly the type of speed and offense that a 3rd line needs to succeed in the NHL. They are the kids that can provide the depth scoring to open up the ice for guys like Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg. The keys are in their hand and all they need to do is capitalize. I’ll be watching for exactly that to happen.