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Ducks vs Oilers PREVIEW: The Circus Comes to Town

The NHL’s hottest celebrity couple, McDraisaitl, comes to Southern California

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Game 18

Date: Sunday, November 10th, 2019

Time: 6:00 PM PT

Location: Honda Center, Anaheim

TV: Prime Ticket

Radio: AM 830

Your Enemy: Copper and Blue

The Anaheim Ducks are just over half-way through a seven game homestand, splitting the first four games 2-2. After a disappointing loss to a floundering Minnesota Wild team that saw Anaheim control the game for most of the first half yet blow a 2-0 lead, the Ducks looked like a tired team in need of some rest.

Fortunately enough that was their last game before a four day break. Long layoffs can be a great opportunity for tired teams to get some much-needed rest and jump back into the season refreshed and revitalized. They can also provide an opportunity for limbs to get stiff and minds to get slow. While practices can help to fight off some of the rust that can build up over an abnormally long break, there really is nothing that compares to the speed and intensity of real games.

Luckily for Anaheim, the Edmonton Oilers only have two of the fastest, high-skilled players in the league so there shouldn’t be any reason to worry about their ability to get back into the swing of things right out of the gate.

Fresh off two years of listening to the NHL media argue over whether or not a team needs to make the playoffs in order for a player to enter the MVP conversation, Connor McDavid has decided to completely circumvent that entire discussion by dragging the rotting carcass of the Edmonton Oilers roster to the playoffs through sheer force of will. With Leon Draisaitl playing the Robin to his Batman, the Rusty to his Danny, McDavid has managed to firmly plant the Oilers in the playoff race with a 11-5-2 record through 18 games that has them atop the Pacific Division thus far.

Accounting for 22 of the team’s 51 goals (and that is only the ones they’ve scored and does not count goals they’ve assisted to people that aren’t each other), McDavid, Draisaitl, and new head coach Dave Tippett are trying to see just how far a good system, good enough goaltending, and two truly game-breaking talents can take you in today’s NHL. A lot has been made of the limited effect that superstars have in hockey because of the limited ice-time they get in comparison to the total minutes played, and by and large that has held true.

Apparently if you upgrade one of those superstars to “generational freak of nature talent that we aren’t entirely sure is from this planet” level, you might just have an outside chance at doing something special.

Keys to the Game

  1. The Other 37 MinutesConnor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl play about 23 minutes per night. The reality is that while those two are on the ice everyone else is basically hanging on for dear life. But there is also a whole other 37 minutes when they’re not on the ice. The Ducks need to capitalize on those minutes. Sure it would be nice to beat McDavid head-to-head, but he’s the best player on the planet and the odds just aren’t in your favor that’s going to happen most nights. So, you have to make the most of the time he’s not around for. It might seem overly simple to say “outscore the Oilers when McDavid is off the ice” is the key to beating Edmonton, but it’s also entirely true.
  2. Special Teams – Edmonton has the tenth ranked penalty kill and the third ranked power play. Anaheim, decidedly does not. The only saving grace in this heavily imbalanced equation, is that the Ducks’ penalty kill (14th) is leaps and bounds better than their terribly anemic power play (30th). And while there is cause for patience with the youth infused power play, it’s always nice to see flashes of growth and promise along the way, and tonight against the Oilers would be a great time for that. On the other end, and I can’t believe this is where we are, it’ll be important for the Ducks to keep James Neal contained. Neal leads Edmonton with eight power play goals (he has 12 on the year total), and Connor McDavid’s 9 power play assists certainly have a lot to do with that. Giving extra time and space to McDavid and Draisatl is never a good thing, and doing it for an extended period of time while simultaneously being down a man is about as bad an idea as you can have. Having John Gibson in net is going to be a huge help here, but the reality is he can only do so much. If the Ducks aren’t able to limit cross-ice passes and second opportunities, it’s going to be a long night for everyone involved.

Players to Watch

Connor McDavid. That’s it. Full stop. It’s not the most elegant answer here, but its the damn truth. The man is human highlight real who at anytime can do something like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

Or Teemu forbid, something like this:

Sure Simon Benoit might be making his NHL debut tonight, and that's a very cool story for an undrafted free agent. We absolutely stan a “no one believed in me” legend in the making. But the truth is, anytime you have the opportunity to watch Connor McDavid, you should just watch Connor McDavid as much as humanly possible. I promise it’ll be among the most entertaining, though perhaps not enjoyable, 20-25 minutes of hockey you watch all year.

Even if the Ducks lose there will be a dark, sadistic joy you can take from it. Like Nero playing his fiddle as Rome burned to the ground around him, so shall we in the Ducks fanbase, #tweetthroughit.