The Vancouver Canucks make their first trip to Honda Center tonight to take on the Anaheim Ducks in a matchup of two teams past their early 2010s contention window that are trying to enter the new decade with a shot at a Stanley Cup.
Vancouver is currently in the midst of an offensive hot streak, with at least five goals scored in each of their last four games. Led by the 20-year-old superstar Elias Pettersson with 18 points in his last 10 games and a revitalized J.T. Miller with 13 points in the same span, the Canucks pose a potentially significant problem for a Ducks defense that has bled shot attempts in recent games.
This is a team that has also been surprisingly good defensively, ranking in the top 10 in both shot attempts allowed and goals allowed at even strength. Their power play is also number one in the NHL in shot attempts.
The bottom line? This team is not the same one from the last several years. This is a team that is likely closer to contention than the Ducks. And with their newfound effectiveness, the Ducks will have plenty to handle tonight.
For the home club, a three-game losing streak was snapped in a big way on Tuesday when Anaheim exploded for seven goals against a team with just as many defensive challenges as them. After scoring only one goal in each of their previous three games, the barrage of offense was a welcome sign for a frustrated club.
Now, they’ll see if they can keep up their success in their own arena where they have a record of 5-1. They will need to find ways to get to goaltender Jacob Markstrom and make him work, as he has seen one of the lower totals of shots in the league amongst number one net minders.
The Ducks will also need to keep up their better power play numbers, which has finally begun to see some success and could be on the verge of becoming an asset to their game.
Keys To The Game
Pressure early - The Canucks have not given teams very many chances to score in the early going. Not necessarily because they have elite defensive talent, but because they play so often with the puck in their opponent’s zone. If the Ducks can force them back on their heels from puck drop and put them in a position they are not familiar with, they might have a chance to get out to a lead quickly.
Build the power play - Anaheim has finally begun seeing more success with the man advantage. Spreading out their penalty kill and opening up the dangerous passing lanes across the slot are key to scoring on special teams, and the Ducks have been doing a better job of that lately. When they can get set up, of course.
Keep them to the outside - This team has defensive issues. Watching any game recently will tell you as much. With Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson missing time, the Ducks are going to give up plenty of scoring chances, though it is possible that Lindholm will be available tonight. This is just a fact of life with this roster. The blue liners will need to not get overly aggressive on pinching from the top of the zone and will just need to get inside position on attacking forwards to push them towards the boards. Limit their shots to low-danger chances, and John Gibson will do the rest.