To quote a magnificent movie, “Ever seen a duck fight? No way. Why? Because the other animals are afraid. They know that if they mess with one duck, they gotta deal with the whole flock.”
The history books tell us it was the Mighty Duck that boomed into existence by being the lead catalyst for sabre-toothed tigers going extinct, most likely because the tiger was unaware of this consequence (don’t worry about fact-checking this)
Tonight, the Anaheim Ducks will once again meet with that foe and will look to cause the same devastation they did long ago. However, these Ducks are not looking quite as fierce this season. They are coming off their fourth consecutive loss to go along with a 2-7-1 record over their last 10 games. They are struggling to generate any sort of positive momentum and they don’t have a single area of their game to lean on. What they could try using against the Predators, however, is some good old-fashioned hate.
It might not be considered much of a rivalry anymore. It may not even be on the radar for anyone but Ducks/Preds fans, but these teams have some genuine hate for each other. The Predators have been the reason for the Ducks being bounced from the playoffs a few times over the last decade. Ryan Kesler, although no longer on the team, helped fuel the fire by endlessly getting under the skin of Ryan Johansen. One win won’t fix all the Ducks’ issues, but bringing a little pain onto the Predators and getting a win on the road could help the Ducks blow off some frustration and hit the reset button.
The Predators are hitting a little bit of a reset button themselves. After finding themselves out of a playoff spot and getting left behind in the Central Division, they made the move of swapping coaches. It was surprising to see them firing Peter Laviolette and bringing in John Hynes within a few days. Since the hiring, the Predators have gone 2-2-0, while going 4-5-1 over their previous 10 games. With the new coach and system still fresh, it leaves an opportunity for the Ducks to challenge them for a much needed win.
Keys to the Game
Limit the goals allowed: The Ducks have allowed at least four goals in eight of their last 11 games. Win or lose, that just needs to stop. They need to play better defensively so their goalies are not forced to make second and third effort saves and be better at moving the puck up the ice so they aren’t trapped in the zone for extended periods of time. Both have been happening over the last month.
Shoot the puck and have net presence: Goaltending has been a significant factor in the Predators struggles as of late. They are bottom four the NHL in save percentage. This is a glaring opportunity for the Ducks. One of the most frustrating things as a Ducks fan is watching them try to make one more pass, or one more move, in order to open up a better chance at scoring. Most of the time it just ends up with them just not getting a shot on net at all (or missing the net completely but let’s not get into that). They need to put as many shots on net as possible and let the goalie make the mistakes for them.
All Eyes on Me
I think the Ducks top line (if it holds) of Getzlaf, Henrique, and Sprong has a good chance of outmatching the Preds top line. Henrique and Sprong can both shoot the puck well. Ryan Johansen has been struggling this year so Getzlaf can outplay him. I think there lies a real good opportunity for this line to do some damage.
Roman Josi is leading the Predators team in points, as a defenseman, and is second in goals. He’s also getting top power play time and is averaging almost 26 minutes of ice time per game. He’s been terrific his entire career, but has been an absolute monster this year. Anaheim will have its toughest time generating scoring opportunities whiles he’s on the ice, in addition to keeping him from playing a role in the Predators offense.