Date: Sunday, February 16, 2020
Time: 2:00 PM PST
Location: Rogers Arena
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: AM 830
The Anaheim Ducks will visit the Vancouver Canucks for a midday game today. The floundering team from Southern California taking a long trip north to face their Pacific Division leading foes from the far North is almost entirely too perfect a metaphor. While the Pacific as a whole may be the weakest division in the league, the two teams involved in Sunday’s tilt have responded quite differently to that fact.
After a somewhat encouraging road trip that saw the Ducks’ compete level raised considerable;y, the team fell flat on their collective faces at home against a Calgary Flames team that had played the night before just up the freeway in Los Angeles. A 6-0 loss to the Flames that saw Cam Talbot regain his form his 42-win season a few years ago as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, if only for a night, as the goaltender posted a 44 save shutout. A four-goal deficit after the first period, saw the game put well out of reach quickly. John Gibson gave up four goals on sixteen shots and was put on door duty for the final two frames of the contest.
Ryan Miller has replaced John Gibson as the 2nd period gets underway in Anaheim— Anaheim Calling Lafreniere for Help (@AnaheimCalling) February 14, 2020
While some level of let-down was to be expected for a Ducks’ team coming off a tragically anomalous game that saw play suspended indefinitely after only 13 minutes due to a medical emergency involving St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, it was hard not to see such a poor performance as anything but a major setback for a team that had recently played some of their best hockey of the season over the previous handful of games. It would seem the days of the Flames being unable to post a win at the Honda Center are long gone. While Calgary looked every bit the part of a desperate team trying to get themselves into the playoffs with a strong late season run, Anaheim was every bit the underwhelming lottery team the standings say they are.
Ducks are skating this morning and by skating I mean skating. That clunker last night did not go over well.— Elliott Teaford (@ElliottTeaford) February 14, 2020
With the team so far out of the playoff picture at this point in the season, and the accompanying trade rumors surrounding a handful of players in light of that fact, it may prove difficult for Anaheim’s players to get up for games as they enter the final quarter of an incredibly frustrating season. However, that is exactly what first year head coach Dallas Eakins will be expected to do. General Manager Bob Murray took over himself behind the bench in a rather similar situation last season in order to get a closer look at the former contender drowning in a pool of its ineptitude. It’s hard to see such a move coming again in the first year of Eakins’ tenure with the club, but this will no doubt be an important period in the evaluation of the new bench boss. It remains to be seen exactly which players he will have at his disposal by the time the season is over, but he was brought in specifically to help the Ducks’ youngest players make the transition from NHL prospects to everyday NHLers. Their play over the final 7 weeks of the season.
Meanwhile Vancouver has managed to seize the moment in front of them and are currently leading the Pacific Division. Despite a point total that would see them missing a wildcard spot in the hyper-competitive Eastern Conference, the Canucks are all but a lock to make the playoffs in the west this year.
Although he’s posted a rather unremarkable 2.74 GAA, netminder Jacob Markstrom has put together a solid season accruing 22 wins in 41 games and maintaining a solid .918 SV% in something of a renaissance season for the 30-year-old netminder. And while neither of those stats are going to blow anyone away, it has been good enough to get by behind a team that has 7 players in double digit goals through 58 games.
Led by a superstar level talent in second year center Elias Pettersson, and with legitimate top-6 support coming from the likes of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and the recently acquired J.T. Miller, Vancouver has managed to win more games than its lost thus far. And, with the emergence of one Quintin Hughes as a legitimate top pairing defenseman in just his rookie season, the team is primed to compete not only for this year, but multiple years to come.
Coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on a night that saw the franchise retire the jerseys of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver has maned to secure 13 of 20 points over their last 10 games. The Pacific may be a turtle race this year, but even those have winners.
Players to Watch
Troy Terry – While it’s been a largely disappointing season for the former Olympian with only four goals and 12 points on the year, the young forward out of Denver Colorado was one of the few bright spots in the aforementioned Calgary game. Posting a career high nine shots, and doing more work on the power play than anyone has seen in Anaheim in sometime, Terry showed why so many were optimistic about the winger coming out of college a few years ago.
The bad news is that there wasn’t a ton of quality to those shots. Also the defense was a wreck. On a positive note: Troy Terry pic.twitter.com/i4PoIntrPf— CJ Woodling (@CJWoodling) February 14, 2020
In what has been an up and down year in more ways than one, expect Troy Terry to see more opportunities over the last bit of the regular season as the organization attempts to figure out who is and isn’t part of the long-term future of the team. He may or may not score goals down the stretch run ( piercing insight I know), but if he can continue to generate opportunities at both 5on5 and on the power play like he did last game, there will be plenty of reason to be hopeful for the young American’s future in Anaheim.
Quinn Hughes - The older brother of last year’s first overall pick Jack Hughes, Quinn Hughes has managed to show why many have referred to the Hughes as the First Family of American Hockey. Leading Vancouver’s defense corp with eight goals and thirty-six assists so far this year, Hughes has been every bit the blue chip prospect many saw him as in his draft year. Taken six picks after Rasmus Dahlin and a draft after Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes is showing why the best young defenseman conversation is far from over. at only 5’10” and 175lbs, Hughes exemplifies the modern game’s shift from size and strength to speed and skill. and since he’s already playing over 21 minutes a night, Anaheim fans will get more than ample opportunity to see what makes the young defenseman so special.
While Kevin Bieksa’s tenure in Anaheim may have left a sour taste in the mouth of some fans, the rugged defenseman was a key part of the great Vancouver teams led by the Sedins that saw prolonged success for the Canucks. If you haven't had a chance to watch this video yet, do yourself a favor and give it a go. Bieksa does a great job paying tribute to two of the most fun and skilled players to grace the ice over the last two decades.
Kevin Bieksa's (@kbieksa3) tribute to the Sedin brothers was all-time. pic.twitter.com/UNxppZyIzB— NHL (@NHL) February 13, 2020