October 26 – Day 20 – Are the Ducks quacks?

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers ended in a 4-1 victory for the Blueshirts.  Although the Flames had a great start to the evening by posting a goal at the 3:06 mark of the first period, the Rangers were able to take the lead during second and never look back.

Jiri Hudler was responsible for the Flames‘ lone goal.  He scored his third of the season following assists from Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

New York tied the game at the 12:03 mark of the second.  Oscar Lindberg was responsible for the tally, assisted by Kevin Hayes and Marc Staal.  They took the lead only 4:54 later, compliments of of Dan Girardi’s game winner, assisted by Emerson Etem and Jarret Stoll.  The 2-1 score held into the second intermission.

During the third, Kevin Klein scored his second goal of the year at the 8:38 mark, followed by the final goal only 1:48 later by Derick Brassard, assisted by Jesper Fast and Ryan McDonagh.

Antti Raanta earned his second win in as many starts by stopping 22 of 23 (95.7%), while Jonas Hiller took the loss after stopping only 17 of 21 (81%).  He was pulled at the 12:01 mark of the final period and replaced with Joni Ortio, who stopped all five shots he faced.

The DtFR Game of the Day series still favors the home team by eight points, currently standing at 11-5-3.

Today is the second straight of only three games on the schedule.  First up at 7 p.m. eastern, the Flames hop on the B Train a day after playing the Rangers to face their opponent’s in-town rivals, the New York Islanders, at the Barclays Center.  Half an hour after that game gets underway, Arizona visits the Air Canada Centre to face Toronto.  Finally, Anaheim and Chicago round the night out in the United Center, with the opening puck dropping at 8:30 p.m. eastern (NHL Network).

It’s been a trip down memory lane this weekend for Chicago, as they hosted the Stanley Cup runners-up Saturday.  The throwback to last season continues tonight when the Western Conference’s runners-up come a-calling.

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Although the Ducks were only a victory away from earning the right to face the Lightning in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals, they have looked nowhere near being considered contenders early this season.  The Ducks may literally waddle into the United Center tonight, having only a 1-5-1 record to show for their efforts.  Unlike division rival Calgary, whose plight was documented yesterday, the Ducks are right on par with the rest of the league in regards to goals against, as they’ve given up one less than the league average.  As I’m sure you’ve now assumed, the Ducks‘ concerns are with their forwards.  Anaheim has scored a grand total of six goals this season.  Yes, six goals over seven games.  What’s worse, they scored four of those goals in one game (10/18 against Minnesota).  Do the math, and that’s four times they’ve been shutout in seven games (they’re coming off one Saturday night at Minnesota).  In other words, not good.

One of the issues here is an ineffective power play.  In 19 opportunities, the Ducks have only scored a lone power play goal.  Their 5.26% power play percentage trails the league average by 13.28%.  Another issue is the number of shots the Ducks are putting on goal.  Anaheim‘s 193 shots are 40 below the league average.  You’d think that would help their shot percentage… think again.  Anaheim trails the league in that category too, as their 3.1% trails the NHL average by 5.9%.

Compare this to the team that rocked The Pond a season ago.  During the regular season, that squad scored 12 more goals than the league average, and allowed only two more than the average.  While the power play still was not on par with the rest of the NHL last season, it still exceeds this year’s effort as the special teams scored 15.68% of the time. Luckily, this year’s defense and goaltending is comparable, if not slightly surpassing last year’s excellent squad.

So, what gives?  I think the loss of LW Matt Beleskey to Boston during free agency has a big part to do with it.  He scored 22 goals last season for the Ducks, third best on the team.  18 of those goals were during 5-on-5 play, where he also ranked third.  His four remaining goals were all on the power play, which tied for fourth on the team with Corey Perry.  Eight of his goals were game-winners, which led the team by two goals.  A goal scorer also brings with him shots, as he put 145 pucks on goal last season, placing him at fifth-best on the squad.  With those shots, though, came the second-best shot percentage (15.2%), trailing only Perry’s 17.1%.

Additionally, the power play might also be struggling due to RW Kyle Palmieri being traded to the Devils during the offseason.  He accounted for five power play goals last season, which tied for second on the team.

Turning our attention to the Stanley Cup Champions, we find a team that is settling into their groove and beginning to climb the ranks of the Western Conference.  Currently, the Hawks have a 5-3-0 record, giving them the second wild card position and fifth place in the conference.  Chicago enters the game on a three-game win streak, most recently shutting out the Lightning at home in overtime with a quick goal by Jonathan Toews.

Similar to Anaheim, Chicago‘s offense hasn’t been glitzy, but they’ve been winning by keeping opposing offenses off the board.  They’ve given up only 16 goals so far this season, five goals under the league average.  Where they’ve really shined offensively is on the power play.  In 33 opportunities, they’ve converted six for goals (18.18%), which have accounted for a third of their total tallies this season.  Probably what is most frightening about the Hawks in light of their win streak is their number of shots (249, 16 over the league average) compared to their shooting percentage (7.2%).  If and when they get that percentage up, even if its just to the 9% league average, their offense will be a significant threat to any goalie.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Frederik Andersen (.938 save percentage [tenth in the league]) and Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (one shutout [tied for fourth in the league], four wins [tied for seventh in the league] and 1.84 GA average [tied for ninth in the league]) & Patrick Kane (11 points [tied for fourth in the league] and five goals [tied for eighth in the league]).

I expect a defensive, competitive matchup tonight that will end positively for Chicago, probably 1-0 or 2-1.

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