November 9 – Day 34 – Out of Necessity, Vol. 3

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings ended pretty close to how I think many expected it to, as the Stars won 4-1.

Dallas didn’t wait too long to get their first score on the board.  Assisted by First Star of the Game John Klingberg and Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp scored a power play goal only 7:22 into the game.  The eventual game winner was scored almost eight minutes later (7:57, to be precise) by Valeri Nichushkin (his first of the year) after being assisted by Third Star Jordie Benn and Jyrki Jokipakka.  With only 27 seconds remaining in the period, Detroit got back within a goal after Second Star Gustav Nyquist notched a power play tally, assisted by Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green.  The 2-1 score held well into the third period before things started falling apart in the Joe.

Only down a goal, Detroit pulled goaltender Petr Mrazek (Jimmy Howard started, but took a knee to the head at the 7:09 mark of the third), but Seguin, assisted by Sharp and Klingberg, made the Wings pay with an empty netter at the 18:52 mark.  Seventeen seconds later, Vernon Fiddler sent a puck over the glass, giving the Wings a power play, so they again pulled Mrazek to have a two-man advantage.  Yet once again, it was the Stars who scored, as Jamie Benn assisted Cody Eakin to a shorthanded empty netter, Dallas‘ fourth goal of the evening.

Kari Lehtonen improved his record to 6-1-0 after saving 21 of 22 (95.5%), while Howard’s record falls to 3-3-1 after saving 20 of 22 (90.9%).  Since the final two Stars goals were empty netters, Petr Mrazek technically shut Dallas out in his 11:06 played after saving both shots he faced, earning a no-decision.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 19-9-5, favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

If you’ve been following along with us all season, you already know what’s coming based on the title of this post.  There’s a whopping… *insert_drumroll_here.mp3*… one game being played tonight!  *insert_cymbal_crash_and_cool_instrumental_vamp_here.mp3*  Yes, the entire attention of the NHL will be turned to The Pond tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Arizona Coyotes at 10 p.m. eastern.

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This is Arizona‘s first appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, while Anaheim is making their third.  The last time they were featured, they fell in overtime in the United Center after playing all of regulation to a scoreless tie.

The 6-6-1 Arizona Coyotes enter tonight’s game in fourth place in the Pacific Division and 10th place in the Western Conference.  Their most recent game was a 4-1 thumping from the New York Rangers at Gila River Arena on Saturday.  So far this season, the Coyotes have been a better defensive team, but both ends of the ice are still sub-par in comparison to the rest of the league.

One of the few things Arizona has gotten right all season has been keeping opposing shots off Mike Smith.  Led by Zbynek Michalek’s  26 blocks, only 395 shots have required a save.  The defense may continue to be asked for more though, as Smith and his backup, Anders Lindback, have saved only 90.6% of those shots combined, allowing 38 goals so far this season.

That being said, the penalty kill has been fairly successful this season.  On 50 opposing attempts, only eight goals have been scored, giving them a 84% kill rate that exceeds the league average by a decent bit (2.81% as of Sunday morning).

On the other end, the offense has only put 371 shots on goal (led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 45), of which only 35 have completed their journey in the back of the net.

A major shortcoming of the Coyotes‘ is their power play.  Although they’ve earned a considerable 53 attempts, they’ve only managed to score six times.  That power play rate of 11.32% is made even worse due to the fact that the Coyotes have allowed a whopping four shorthanded goals already this year.  The special teams need to be a point of focus should Arizona want to take advantage of a weak division.

The 5-7-2 Anaheim Ducks enter the game on a four-game win streak, last beating the San Jose Sharks 1-0 in The Tank on Saturday.  They currently sit at fifth in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference, and are beginning to resemble the Ducks we expected to see this season.

Defense, specifically goaltending, has been the name of the game in Anaheim, as they’ve only allowed 33 goals so far this season.  Even though Frederik Andersen and his backup, Anton Khudobin, have faced 442 shots combined, they’ve saved a strong 93% of those attempts.  Add that in with Kevin Bieksa’s 28 blocks, and you find a team that plays as sound a defense as possible.

Even on the penalty kill, the Ducks have found ways to keep the opposition off the board.  On 48 attempts, opponents have scored only four power play goals.  If you’re doing the math in your head, the number you’ve come to is not wrong: the Ducks are killing 91.67% of their penalties, a rate that exceeds the league average by over 10%.

The offense has had a tough time getting started this year, as they’ve only managed 393 shots so far (led by Jakob Silfverberg’s 32, even though he has yet to score).  They’ve scored on 5.3% of those attempts for a measly 22 goals, but half of those goals have come during their four-game win streak, which should probably make their division rivals a little worried.

A spot where Anaheim still needs to improve is the power play.  On 42 attempts, only five pucks have found the back of the net for a lowly 11.9% success rate.  Again, it seems like Anaheim has finally started getting their skates under them, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see these numbers begin to climb in the next few weeks.

Last season, the Ducks won the season series 3-0-2, but were only 1-0-1 at the Honda Center.

Some players to watch in this one include Anaheim‘s Andersen (.935 save percentage [seventh in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tenth in the league]) and Arizona‘s Martin Hanzal (12 assists [tied for fifth in the league]).

Based on the statistics, their current winning streak, and the fact that they’re playing at home, I expect the Anaheim Ducks to take care of business in this one and move into fourth place in the division.