Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN, Various Regional SportsNet Affiliates, WGN-AM 720
Tragic Kingdom: Anaheim Calling
On a certain level it’s probably wrong to point and laugh at the AnaCouver CaDucks’ moribund start considering the relentless amorality of the Hawks from top to bottom. And there’s no way the Ducks are actually as bad as a lot of they have looked and much of their struggles are percentage driven, and calling them out on it will likely result in a STATEMENT GAME where they perform well tonight because jinxes are totally real. On another level, fuck the Anaheim Ducks, because no one in their right mind in this fan base should give even a quarter of a shit about a game in late October.
The Anaheim Ducks have scored 6 goals in 7 games, with four of them coming in a single game at home against the Minnesota Wild last Sunday. That same Wild team beat them in St. Paul on Saturday night and outshot them 30-15, with the Ducks never managing more than 6 shots in a single period. They have already been shut out four times this season. And while they are in the midst of a horrific shooting slump (just 2.5% at evens and 3.1% overall), they’re also getting pretty consistently outshot at 27.2 to 30.6 in all situations, so it’s not exactly like they’re mounting furious comebacks as the other team lays back in a shell.
As a result there’s been much talk of whacking barbecue sauce wearing idiot Bruce Boudreau, and just as equal of a backlash from people who love Gabby because the uptempo game he plays and the regular season wins. Anyone defending Boudreau is a moron. One need only watch literally any playoff series he’s been to eventually see Baby Huey fill his diaper whenever he comes up against a real coach. He’s basically Patrick Roy-caliber stupid who’s had MVP/Art Ross caliber forwards, and anyone who saw the original iteration of 24/7 on HBO can sum up his coaching strategem as LET’S FUCKING GO BOYS. And for a team that in theory has Stanley Cup aspirations, that’s simply not enough.
The forward corps here is certainly deep enough provided they haven’t stopped giving a shit, which it certainly looks like did in Minnesota. The One Eyed Wonder Weasels And Their Two Balls, Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler have produced neither together or apart this year in multiple combinations and permutations. And while all are well above the 50% mark in their share of shot attempts when on the ice, Kesler and and Perry each are averaging only 3 ATTEMPTS a game so far. Carl Hagelin was swapped in for Emerson Etem, and adds some PK versatility to go with looking like a total malorkus having his visor tilted so far upward the only thing it guards is is forehead. The corpse of Shawn Horcoff now patrols the bottom six as well in an effort to give Rickard Rakell an expanded role.
It’s the blue line here that has been the most comical, however. The aging but steady Francois Beauchemin was allowed to walk and get incredibly overpaid by Colorado (imagine that), which led Red Assed Uncle Bob Murray to turn around for mouthy Nick Lachey look-alike Kevin Bieksa, who has rapidly been declining over the past few years in Vancouver. The Ducks are hoping that he remains no more than a second pairing option, as all of Cam Fowler, Simon Despres, and Hampus Lindholm are all expected to take the next step and reach their first round pick pedigree. The entire Ducks defensive corps is above water in possession except for the useless Leafs castoff Korbinian Holzer (thanks Dave Nonis), and that’s even with Fowler taking substantially more defensive zone draws than anyone else. But to watch them play, there’s no organization present. Whether it’s a coaching edict or just players playing to their tendencies, the Ducks’ defensemen have been not only conceding the blue line regularly, but often times are drifting towards the middle of the ice as a forward gains the zone on the wing. If this is a concerted effort from the coaching staff, it’s doubtful that it’s paying off the way they want it to.
In net Frederik Andersen has certainly done his part, as he’s winless despite throwing up a .938 save percentage so far. Though as the Hawks showed last year in May, the truth about Freddy might be a step below that.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, there appear to be no lineup changes for tonight in the midst of a three-game win streak, as is tradition. Teuvo on the wing in favor of LOCAL BOY Hinostroza is about the only gripe to be found here, though he occasionally gets shifts in the middle as the game situations warrant. He’s going to have to learn sometime, and in theory it should have been in October against a run of eight straight non-conference opponents, but THREE CUPS and all of that. The Hawk forwards so far have done a nice job of closing their gap on the breakout to help give their non-Keith defensemen manageable targets to pass to, and the results have born out nicely in the form of the Hawks being able to carry the vast majority of the play against the two Florida teams, neither of whom are possession averse.
Jonathan Toews should be a focus tonight, as his play to this point has just seemed a bit off, even in spite of the OT game winner on Saturday. And even at home tonight, there’s nowhere for him to hide either against Getzlaf or Kesler, who gets the better of Toews just as often as the inverse.
And while the Ducks should in theory have an axe to grind against the Hawks, this is also a team who is just waiting for even the slightest change to quit on their coach. Games 6 and 7 showed just how easily this team will fold up if it gets a whiff of “here we go again” on the bench, and an early goal from the Hawks should put this one to bed quickly. And a decisive victory could very well usher in the Trent Yawney era in Anaheim, only adding to the hilarity.
If you’re going to the game tonight, pick up a copy of our gameday program outside. If you’re not, you can get the PDF right here.