Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Division’

One of the toughest things to do in sport is to beat a team twice in a row. Look for the Oilers to bring it from the drop of the puck. Arguably the fastest team in the NHL, these Oilers can really bring it.

Job 1 tonight isn’t to survive the attack. You may hear or read such nonsense advanced in broadcast or print media. Job 1 is to match the Oilers intensity. Do this, compete, and the rest will take care of itself. As we were reminded last night, our Ducks are a pretty good hockey team when they compete.

Our Ducks can clinch the Pacific Division crown and second seed in the Western Conference with a win. While it’s too soon to think about the playoffs, mainly because our first round opponent has yet to be determined, we won’t.

Keys to the Game

As mentioned, compete. Match the Oilers intensity from the get go. The challenge here is for our Ducks to keep their feet moving. You compete with the Oilers by skating with them.

Don’t look ahead. Focus on the play in front of you. Wednesday’s game against Vancouver is televised in Canada and on the NHL Network in the USA but that’s no excuse to look past these Oilers.

Second, smart positional play. Two guys deep in the offensive zone with a 3rd man high. Oilers are so quick in transition you committing 3 guys low in the offensive is the sure-fire way to get burned by giving up odd man attacks.
Force the Oilers outside in neutral zone. True their only goal came from the outside but it was their only goal because they were forced to the perimeter the entire game. In our zone every player must keep his body between his check and Jonas Hiller. We can’t let them get behind us.

Finally. finish scoring chances. Jeez Louise, from passes to nowhere, to shooting wide to hitting posts on empty nets our Ducks are having trouble putting the puck in the opposition net.
Yes we won last night but we had as much trouble scoring on an empty net as we did when Dubnyk was between the pipes.

Expecting Nick Bonino to replicate his performance might be a bit much to expect.

It’s been a quite a season for Bones. He unceremoniously caused the demotion of Teemu Selanne off the first unit PP. He settled the depth lines. It may not be long before Coach reunites the Bonino-Ryan-Selanne line. My hunch is that the second act will be far more successful than the first.

Many thanks to yougetwhatyouputin for again stepping up to keep the blog going forward. This time a Trojan worm took down the desktop while a driver issue sent the laptop dark. The desktop is back up and running. The laptop will require a return to the repair shop.

You probably know the OCR has gone subscription based. As a result the Ducks no longer include the OCR in its Daily Clips email promo. The bummer is that practice coverage provided by the Ducks Official Website is inconsistent. We need to know who is on the ice, the lines and D pairings at practice. The purpose or theme of the practice, if there is one. Which goalie leaves the ice first on game day skates. If you would please email our Ducks and let them know how you want practices covered.

Ducks @ Kings:

Stakes: Ducks backed into the playoffs when Calgary beat Phoenix in OT yesterday. A win in RT will all but seal Ducks second Pacific Division crown in franchise history. IF our Ducks do win in RT a tie in their remaining five games will secure the Pacific.

Keys to the Game:

1. Match the Kings intensity. We can’t win unless we want to win.
2. Stay out of the sin bin. You just can’t give the Kings PP chances.
3. Be first on loose pucks. Do this and we know our Ducks are skating.
4. Win the physical battles.
5. Neutralize Doughty by forcing his partner (Reghr) to play the puck.

Many are noting that our Ducks have cooled somewhat. A glance at the recent record 5-6-1 Goal Differential minus 8  in the last twelve games supports the point. What the record doesn’t show is that our Ducks have been on an emotional roller coaster of late. Over this same span our guys took 2 of 3 against Dallas and beaten both the Kings and Blackhawks. In those five games that they got up for, our Ducks record is 4-1 with a Goal Differential of plus 6.

Injuries: Cam Fowler is questionable, Nick Bonino is expected back toward the middle of next week. Kings D-men Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are out for the season.

Fowler’s absence significantly impacts the transition game. The work Scott Niedermayer has done with Cam this season is evident. While his progress isn’t showing up in goals and assists, Cam’s plus/minus has gone from minus-28 to minus-7. At least part of the reason is we spend less time in our zone when Fowler is on the ice.

With Cam out, look for the outlet/support player to be positioned closer to the puck.

Ducks bring their best ever 15-3-1 record into Phoenix for the start of a three game series against the Coyotes. To make matters tougher on the ‘Yotes they’ll face our Ducks without Getzlaf shadow Martin Havlat and Duck killer Radim Vrbata.

Beware wounded dogs. The ‘Yotes, sitting just outside the playoffs in the 11th seed view this series as key to making up ground in the Pacific Division. They trail our Ducks by ten points.

Currently, eleven teams are separated by just five points as the half way marker approaches in the Western Conference. Of the teams ranked 6th through 13th, Phoenix is one of just two teams with a positive goal differential. Tainted Cup champions Los Angeles Kings are the other.

Playing the Coyotes is like skating inside perpetual three-pronged trap. They take away time and space by keeping one attacker forward at the puck and two in support. The short gap between their own forwards and D presents a wall of red against oncoming attackers.
This is a team that will also collapse five skaters around goaltender Mike Smith.

In other words what Tippett’s team tries to do is shrink the rink so that the opposition is playing in the small ice areas along the boards and in the corners. In many ways our Ducks support the puck game plays directly into Phoenix strategy.

Notes: Conventional media wisdom is advancing the idea that our Ducks can no longer both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. This is mostly an excuse used by the Gossip Girls to milk a non-existent trade rumor. According to CapGeek our Ducks have more than $28m cap space available for next season. Plenty of money to spread around The Twins and The Finn Twins if all return.

 

Anaheim Ducks have announced that former Vice-President and General Manager has accepted a position as a part-time scout with the team.

Via AnaheimDucks.com:

“We are happy to welcome Brian back to the organization,” said Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. “Anytime you can add a person of his quality to your staff, it makes your organization better. We’ve had success working together before and look forward to doing it again.”

Burke returns to the Ducks after originally serving as Executive Vice President/General Manager from 2005-08. Over his three-plus seasons with the organization, the Ducks captured their first Stanley Cup (2007), first Pacific Division title (2007) and first two 100+ point seasons (2006-07 & 2007-08). The Ducks also qualified for the postseason in all three seasons, winning six of eight playoff series over that span.

The scouting role was not clearly defined in our Ducks press release. Brian Burke could be doing anything from scouting upcoming teams on the schedule, players that are offered in trade, our own players in the minors and/or draft prospects.

Let’s just hope our Ducks don’t start a losing streak Sunday.

 

Sharks remain undefeated in regulation time but lost one a OT tilt to Nashville Saturday night. It was the third consecutive game in which San Jose was forced into overtime. The other two coming against the our Ducks and Minnesota Wild.

The Sharks seem to be tapering off after a torrid start while our surging Ducks are among the surprises in the early going of this condensed NHL season. Anybody who predicted that these Sharks and Ducks would be first and second in the Pacific Division at any time has earned a maintenance day. Sharks are four points ahead of the Ducks who have played one less game.

Seems odd to bring up the Standings before either team has played its tenth game. It would be except that in a 48 game schedule nearly 20% of the season is in the books. That’s right, I began drafting this blog’s annual 1/4 pole report over the weekend.

Every game is magnified by a multiple of nearly 2. Every game carries approximately twice the importance in a 48 game schedule as it would in a 82 game season. A four point game becomes an eight game. Lose in regulation and our Ducks fall three (6 points) games behind the Sharks with just two games remaining between the clubs.

This is what a sprint is all about.

Ducks are sporting a little different look than the team visited the Shark Tank a week ago. Coach adjusted his D pairings putting Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray together in support of the checking line. Toni Lydman and Luca Sbisa became the 3rd pairing. Upfront the Bobby Ryan to Center experiment continued though Coach put Bonino out there on the 2nd Unit PP after Bones scored his hat trick Saturday night.

Cam Fowler is listed as day-to-day after Jared Stoll’s cheap check from behind. I don’t understand why the league has refused a hearing on the hit. Maybe the NHL isn’t serious about head injuries. Maybe it’s another in the long line of official decisions that go against our Ducks. Sami Vatanen could play in his second NHL game if Fowler can’t go.

Asking 38-year-old Sheldon Souray to play three games in four nights is expecting a lot. Look for a last-minute call-up later today.

The official anti-Anaheim bias didn’t help the LA Kings Saturday night. Our guys will again have to maintain their composure to beat the Sharks. These Ducks have shown real character since the home opener. We can and will get a fair shake from the league eventually. Fact is, our Ducks have been whiners and crybabies for several seasons. A change in perception will take some time. The whining has to stop. No Ref likes to be F-bombed, and/or hear comments about their mothers, sisters and significant others or that the Ref should perform a physically impossible act upon himself. Even when the player mutters such to himself and not directly to the Ref.

Getzlaf and Perry need to stop whining!

These Ducks are showing that they can beat anybody. All they need do is give themselves the chance.

The Pacific Division is easily the NHL’s best. Three of the last four Western Conference finalists came out of the Pacific. Current Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings play in the Pacific. Two of its teams has won the Cup in the past six seasons. No other division in hockey can boast such accomplishments or anything even close for that matter.

Given the weighted NHL schedule a winning record in this division sets teams up for a deep playoff run.

The L.A. Kings came together in the second half of last season and rolled to the Stanley Cup. GM Dean Lombardi is bringing everyone back for an encore. Given the short season there’s no reason to believe the Kings won’t be heard from before the Cup is raised in June.
Anze Kopitar is the closest thing to a complete and under-rated hockey player. this side of Pavel Datsyuk. Catch a few bounces and Anze could compete for the Hart, Ross, Richard and Selke trophies in the same year. Drew Doughty sacrificed personal accolades to become a team player. A fact seemingly lost on Kings Nation. The only challenge Jamie Quick faces is maintenance so that he’s fresh for the key games and playoffs.
The supporting cast, led by captain Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams and shut down Dman Willie Mitchell provides a nice mix of complimentary.
No reason not to expect the Kings to win the division.

Phoenix Coyotes continue to prove the cliché, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. If this group can find a few more goals they are best positioned to challenge the Kings. It just might happen with defenders Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are two of the hockeys best puck moving Dmen. The ‘Yotes can transition from the backline and arguably the NHL’s toughest to play against team.

Doug Wilson is among the most respected GM’s in hockey but it seems the Sharks window of opportunity may have already shut. The core of Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Philip Marleau is getting long in the teeth. Unless the supporting cast led by Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Martin Havlat and Ryan Clowe take it up a notch, the Sharks will be in trouble. The additions of Brad Stuart and Adam Burrish will help. With only two roster changes the short season should serve them well.

Seems as though Ducks GM Bob Murray retools his blue line annually. This year Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray are added to the top six. Are they enough to help these improve on their 19th best GA? Jonas Hiller returns in net. The big three of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan are again supported by Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu and a bunch of unproven youngsters. Recently, Coach Boudreau said that the Ducks are short one winger. Ducks should improve on their last place finish of last but everything must go right for them to advance beyond fourth place in one tough, competitive division.

Dallas Stars will go so far as Kari Lehtonen, Jamie Benn and Louie Eriksson can carry them. Stars have added Ray Whitney, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr to their top six. That’s a lot of change needing to come together quickly in such a shortened season.