The Anaheim Ducks kick off a back-to-back set of games tonight in Glendale, Arizona against an Arizona Coyotes team that is unexpectedly in the middle of the playoff race.
They’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL over their last eight games with a record of 7-1-0 on a six-game win streak. That run currently has them just two points out of a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Even more impressive? They’ve done this with the most man-games lost in the NHL. It’s almost as if they figured out how to combat that disadvantage through coaching and roster-construction methods. Imagine that.
Center Vinnie Hinostroza, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and center Alex Galchenyuk lead the scoring for the Coyotes over the last 10 games while goaltender Darcy Kuemper has put up a .940 SV% in the absence of Antti Raanta.
The Ducks, meanwhile, have been playing much better as of late, yet continue to drop games in support of the tank, mostly due to a streak of bad luck with a 4.44 SH% over their last 10 contests.
After breaking a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, Anaheim will face a tough test in continuing their good play in the face of the red-hot Coyotes.
Since Bob Murray took over, the Ducks are 4-6-0, yet have respectable shot metrics of 49.80 CF%, 53.47 SCF%, and 57.22 HDCF%. Outchancing your opponent most nights and still losing? That’s what I call elite-level tanking.
With the beginning of the back-to-back, don’t be surprised to see Ryan Miller in net tonight before John Gibson takes over for tomorrow’s game against another scorching-hot team, the St. Louis Blues.
Tonight will be a milestone night as Ryan Kesler is set to play his 1000th career NHL game. He will become the 25th active player and the 333rd player in NHL history to achieve the milestone. An amazing run given Kesler’s issues with an arthritic hip and wear-and-tear on a body that has played one of the most grinding and physical brands of hockey over the past 15 years.
While Kesler can’t shut down opponents top lines like he used to and may not be worth his contract anymore, the 34-year-old center still has some value as a mentor to the influx of younger players making their mark on the roster and as the pivot of the 4th line in limited minutes.
Regardless of the kind of player he is now, one thing certainly hasn’t been lost: his tremendous work ethic and ability to give everything he has on every shift he takes.
Congratulations on the 1,000 game milestone, Kes!
Keys to the Game
Defensively responsible hockey
Even with their injury troubles, the Coyotes are filled with young guys who know how to skate. We all know how speed teams can give the Ducks plenty of issues on the rush. Playing defensive hockey by always knowing where the opposing forwards are and getting back in position on time can help neutralize scoring rushes from Arizona.
Just keep shooting
The Ducks are shooting at just a 4.44% clip since Bob Murray took over. They’re getting enough pucks on net, but they’re just not going in. Everyone can see that the luck just isn’t going their way right now. Just keep seeing pucks towards the net, and a few of them are bound to go in eventually.