Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
44-25-13, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Swept in the First Round by San Jose, 4-0
Subtractions: D Francois Beauchemin (retired), G Reto Berra (signed, Switzerland), F Jared Boll (retired), F J.T. Brown (signed with MIN), F Derek Grant (signed with PIT), F Chris Kelly (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (traded to WPG), F Mike Liambas (signed with MIN), F Andre Petersson (signed, KHL), F Corey Tropp (signed with San Diego Gulls, AHL)
Offseason Analysis: Despite finishing one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the final standings at the end of the regular season, the Sharks took a bite out of the Anaheim Ducks in the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. So much of a bite, in fact, it swept the Ducks off their feet.
Get it? Because they got swept in the postseason.
Despite winning the Cup with Randy Carlyle behind the bench in 2007, Anaheim needs to recognize just how much has changed in the last 11 years. The Ducks got back with their ex and fell into their old habits in a new-age game.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler aren’t the players they used to be. It’s not that Perry can’t score, it’s just that he’s not as effective. As for the Ryans (Getzlaf and Kesler), one’s still existent (Getzlaf) though he’d be much better on the second or third line– or at least flanked by youth on his wings– and the other (Kesler) has become irrelevant.
Brian Gibbons and Carter Rowney are fourth liners, so depth down the bottom-six is covered, at least. Meanwhile Luke Schenn and Andrej Sustr provide excellent coverage as sixth defensemen fighting for the last spot on Anaheim’s blue line, which is one of two bright spots for the Ducks heading into 2018-19.
Anaheim’s defensive core is strong with Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour as their top-four defenders. As one of the most under-the-radar defensive core, they’ve kept John Gibson‘s workload to a manageable– wait, actually, Gibson faced 435 shots more in eight additional games last season than he did in 2016-17.
For the record, Gibson faced 1,437 shots against in 52 games (25-16-9 record) in 2016-17, while he faced 1,872 shots against in 60 games (31-18-7) last season. Though the workload increased, Gibson’s save percentage improved from a .924 to a .926. He also won over half the games he played in last season.
So Anaheim’s main strong point is the best American goaltender in the game, while having one of the better than average defenses in the game. Meanwhile, Nick Ritchie remains an unsigned RFA that Murray has to manage carefully.
Quintessential to the transition from the 2000s/2010s style Ducks to the 2020s era Ducks, the 22-year-old left winger is Anaheim’s biggest blue chip roster player outside of the crease. Ritchie is just waiting to emerge with a breakout year as Troy Terry joins the fold on offense.
The fact of the matter remains– play the kids more.
It can only help manage the workload of the physically worn out Ducks that have been around for the last decade. Perry might still produce, but it’s time to break him free from Getzlaf on the first line.
Ondrej Kase could move up a line, but Jakob Silfverberg isn’t actually the problem on the second line.
Anaheim’s in the middle of something– middle of the road, middle of a transition or middle of mediocrity. Whatever it is, they didn’t do much this offseason to fix it this season, but there’s still time to turn things around in the next few years– wait, Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler all have NMCs in their contracts that have three, three and four-years remaining respectively?
Offseason Grade: D+
No you can’t get an “A” by default after having Francois Beauchemin, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly retire in one offseason from your roster.
John Gibson might be the closest thing to Dominik Hasek that we’ve seen since Dominik Hasek led the nonchalant 1999 Buffalo Sabres (seriously, look up the scoring leaders for that team, it trails off after Miroslav Satan— shouts Puck Soup) in the dead puck/trap era to the Stanley Cup Final– that’s if Gibson single handedly leads the Ducks to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, mind you, and the mountain looks too steep.
Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.
The theme of aquatic birds continues in DtFR’s offseason preview series, as it’s time to tackle the Anaheim Ducks’ priorities regarding their pending free agents.
Featuring a playoff roster with an average age of 28.5-years-old, logic would indicate the Ducks are in their prime. However, even though they’ve qualified for the postseason for six-straight seasons, they’ve failed to advance beyond the first round in half of those appearances – including a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks this April.
One of the biggest concerns about this Anaheim club is it plays an old-fashioned, grind-it-out style that simply doesn’t mesh well against the increasingly quicker and technically-sound opponents.
In simpler terms, the Ducks need to get younger and faster.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
One of the easiest ways to get younger is with a solid draft class, and Anaheim will have that opportunity with the 23rd-overall selection.
If one of the mock drafts I’ve compiled (all of which are available at Elite Prospects) are correct, I’d bet on General Manager Bob Murray selecting D Alexander Alexeyev (Red Deer Rebels), C Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), D Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) or D Bode Wilde (USNTDP) with his first round selection.
If there’s one thing the Ducks’ scouts know, it’s definitely defense. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all solid blueliners 26-years-old or younger that will service this organization for years to come, and I’d only expect Alexeyev, Sandin or Wilde to join the group if they’re deemed truly worthy.
That’s what makes McLeod such an attractive option. Even though the 18-year-old is all but ensured at least one more season with the Steelheads, Anaheim’s deep defense gives it the opportunity to invest in restocking its attack.
McLeod had a breakout season in 2017-18, registering 26-44-70 totals in 68 games played (1.03 points per game), followed by 2-3-5 marks in his six postseason appearances. If he can take command of the club following the potential departure of brother F Michael McLeod (12th-overall pick by New Jersey in 2016) and lead Mississauga on a deep playoff run, Anaheim could happen into a stellar young forward.
Pending free agents
Let’s tackle Anaheim’s easiest position first: goaltending. G John Gibson and G Ryan Miller are both under contract for one more season, so the Ducks will likely make no moves in this department. The most important note here is making sure Murray reserves money on the back burner for Gibson next summer (he’ll be an RFA, for those that care about those sorts of things). He currently has a touch over $9 million in cap space this season and a whopping $23 million to play with in 2019-20.
Montour’s 20:28 time on ice per game was fourth on the team, and the same can be said for his .4 points per game. At 24-years-old, he’ll be worth every penny of any contract he receives to play an imposing presence as a top-four defenseman.
Having just turned 37-years-old Saturday following a 0-8-8, -13 season in 59 games played, it’s hard to see a way Bieksa returns to Anaheim for a fourth season. That makes signing Welinski – the Ducks’ third-round pick in 2011 – to a low-cost, two-way contract all the easier to swallow.
Instead, the toughest decisions for Anaheim will be made in the forwards room. RW J.T. Brown, W Jason Chimera, C Derek Grant, W Ondrej Kase, F Chris Kelly, LW Nick Ritchie and F Antoine Vermette are all looking for contracts this summer, with all but Kase and Ritchie being of the UFA variety.
Regardless of type, Kase is by far the most important free agent on Anaheim’s plate this summer. He reached the 20-goal plateau in his second season in the NHL, and he needed only 66 games to do it. He may not compare to RW Teemu Selanne (I mean, the Finnish Flash did score 76 goals in his rookie season compared to Kase’s five), but I believe he’s fully ready to climb into a top-six position with F Rickard Rakell to lead this Ducks team when F Ryan Kesler and C Ryan Getzlaf depart.
In a similar fashion, fellow 22-year-old Ritchie should also receive a fresh deal to keep him in Orange County. While not quite the scorer Kase is (he managed only 10-17-27 totals in 76 games played this season), Ritchie is an excellent third-liner that still has more than enough time to develop into a real weapon from his position. Get him a bridge deal for a cap hit under $1.25 million and move on.
Anaheim’s most important UFA is Grant, a player that provided 12-12-24 totals in 66 appearances this season from his position on the fourth line. Coming off a one-year, $650 thousand deal, he’ll likely sign for cheap to give the Ducks four solid centers.
The rest of the UFAs (Brown – 27, Chimera – 39, Kelly – 37, Vermette – 35) either don’t fit with the “get younger” plan or simply aren’t worth the money (looking at you, Brown). Anaheim can either promote a forward from its organization (I like pending RFA F Kalle Kossila) or acquire another from outside to fill its 13th forward position.
For just the second time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks have swept a playoff series. The Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1, in Game 4 at SAP Center and advanced to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of the win.
Tomas Hertl scored the game-winning goal in the third period to give the Sharks their first postseason series sweep since they defeated the Vancouver Canucks in four games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Marcus Sorensen (3) continued his incredible postseason run so far and got the home crowd roaring early in the first period after he followed up on his own rebound and beat Gibson to give San Jose a 1-0 lead. Brent Burns (1) and Melker Karlsson (3) had the assists on Sorensen’s goal at 5:43 of the first period.
After 20 minutes, the Sharks led the Ducks 1-0 on the scoreboard. San Jose also led in hits (13-6) and takeaways (6-3), while Anaheim led in shots on goal (10-9), blocked shots (10-2) and faceoff win percentage (64-36).
The second period brought a shift in momentum as Anaheim got their first power play of the night after Joe Pavelski was guilty of tripping Marcus Pettersson a little past the seven-minute mark of the period.
A few minutes later, Timo Meier, got his stick up in the face of Rickard Rakell and the Ducks went back on the power play. San Jose killed it off and promptly took the game’s next penalty with a minute remaining in the second period.
As time was ticking down, Ryan Getzlaf fired a shot on goal with less than a second remaining in the period. The Ducks celebrated, but after a quick review, it was confirmed that the clock read “0.0” as the puck went past Jones.
Anaheim outshot San Jose, 14-6, in the second period. The Ducks also led in blocked shots (12-11) and faceoff win% (54-46) through 40 minutes of play. San Jose had a slight advantage in hits (20-19) and the lead on the scoreboard, 1-0. Neither team was successful on the power play through two periods (with the Ducks having gone 0/3 and Sharks, 0/2).
With a minute remaining on Fehr’s penalty and a fresh sheet of ice thanks to the second intermission, the Ducks attacked the Sharks early in the third period with ferocity.
Just 27 seconds in the period, Getzlaf entered the zone on a three-on-two breakout and threw the puck to Rakell who fired a shot past Jones. Anaheim thought they had tied the game on the power play, but Sharks head coach, Peter DeBoer, challenged the call on the ice on the basis that the Ducks entered the zone offside.
After review, it was determined that Getzlaf entered the zone offside and the call on the ice was reversed. No goal, still 1-0 San Jose.
Evander Kane took a stick up high from Brandon Montour a couple of minutes later and the Sharks were given their third power play of the night. Anaheim’s defense stepped their game up killed off the penalty, keeping San Jose scoreless on the man advantage. The Sharks would finish the night 0/3 on the power play.
Melker Karlsson then caught Andy Welinski with a high-stick of his own while losing his balance and was sent to serve a two-minute minor penalty. The Ducks were unable to put one past Jones on the power play, but they were getting some quality chances and building momentum for the inevitable.
Jakob Silfverberg sent a quick pass to Ryan Kesler who was awaiting behind the goal line. Kesler received the pass and quickly threw the puck to Andrew Cogliano (1) who was crashing the net and fired a quick redirection shot point blank on Jones to tie the game, 1-1.
Kesler (2) and Silfverberg (1) were credited with the assists on Cogliano’s first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:53 of the third period.
Less than a couple minutes later, Getzlaf went to work on getting the puck out of his own zone with a lackadaisical clearing attempt around the boards. Instead of working the puck into the neutral zone and forcing San Jose’s attack to retreat and get back onside, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was able to scoop up the loose puck and throw a shot on goal.
It was then that Tomas Hertl (3) was able to redirect Vlasic’s shot through Gibson’s five-hole and put the Sharks back on top, 2-1. Vlasic (2) picked up his second assist of the series on Hertl’s goal.
The quick response from the Sharks was enough to motivate the home team that was already feeding off of the energy inside SAP Center.
Gibson vacated his net for an extra skater with less than two minute to go in regulation, but even after Randy Carlyle called a timeout with 1:01 left on the clock after a stoppage in play, the Ducks were not able to tie the game and force an overtime.
San Jose had completed the sweep at the sound of the final horn.
The Sharks had won Game 4 by a score of 2-1 and finished the night leading in hits (28-27). Anaheim finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-24) and 0/4 on the power play.
For the first time in 19 years, the Anaheim Ducks were swept in a playoff series.
Having already witnessed the Vegas Golden Knights’s 1-0 victory in Game 4 against Los Angeles on Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks know exactly who they’ll be facing in the Second Round. Vegas and San Jose will meet for the first time in the postseason at T-Mobile Arena for Games 1 and 2 as the Golden Knights will continue to have home ice in the next round.
The San Jose Sharks had a night of firsts on Monday at SAP Center. Eight different goal scorers contributed to the most goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in franchise history for the Sharks as San Jose beat the Anaheim Ducks, 8-1.
As a result of the win, the Sharks can sweep the Ducks Wednesday night on home ice.
Martin Jones had 45 saves on 46 shots against for a .978 save percentage in the win— setting a franchise playoff record for most saves in a regulation game— while Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson, made 19 saves on 24 shots against for a .792 SV% in 39:43 time on ice in the loss. Ducks backup goaltender, Ryan Miller, made nine saves on 12 shots faced for a .750 SV% in relief for Gibson.
San Jose didn’t waste much time getting on the scoreboard as Logan Couture (2) picked up his 2nd of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs just 3:44 into the first period on a follow up chance. Mikkel Boedker (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Sharks led 1-0.
Just past the halfway point of the first period, Ryan Getzlaf jumpstarted a deep rut to the penalty box for the Ducks all night by being penalized for holding Sharks forward, Joonas Donskoi. The Sharks were unable to convert on their first power play of the night.
Instead, Timo Meier was penalized for hooking Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg shortly after San Jose’s man advantage ended. As such, the Ducks went on the power play and promptly capitalized about a minute later with Rickard Rakell (1) scoring a power play goal to tie the game, 1-1.
Brandon Montour (1) and Getzlaf (2) had the assists on Rakell’s game-tying goal at 13:40 of the first period.
After 20 minutes of play, the score was 1-1 with Anaheim outshooting San Jose, 11-8. The Ducks also led in hits (24-8) and faceoff win percentage (63-37). Meanwhile, the Sharks had a 5-4 advantage in blocked shots and led in takeaways (6-0), as well as giveaways (3-2) through one frame. Anaheim was 1/1 on the power play in the first period and San Jose was 0/1 on the man advantage.
The second period opened similar to the first period in that San Jose scored early.
Joonas Donskoi (1) passed the puck to Evander Kane who flipped it back to Donskoi for the shot on net and the Sharks went ahead, 2-1. Kane (1) had the only assist on the goal at 1:15 of the second period.
Almost two minutes later, Marcus Sorensen (2) received a pass from Donskoi on a quick transition, deked and scored on Gibson to make it 3-1 San Jose. Donskoi (1) was credited with the assist on Sorensen’s goal at 3:41 of the second period.
Then things settled in for about ten minutes until Eric Fehr (1) got the puck on his stick around center ice, brought it into the offensive zone with great hands, deked past Anaheim’s defense and made it 4-1 for the Sharks. Sorensen (1) and Melker Karlsson (2) notched the assists on the goal at 13:43 of the period.
Less than a minute later, Ducks forward, Nick Ritchie received two penalties after the whistle— a minor for slashing San Jose’s captain, Joe Pavelski, and another minor penalty for roughing against Pavelski. Sharks defenseman, Dylan DeMelo, picked up a roughing minor against Ducks defenseman Derek Grant.
All of the penalties came at 14:28 of the second period with the Sharks ending up on a 5-on-4 power play, until Ducks defenseman, Francois Beauchemin, slashed Logan Couture about a minute later.
San Jose called a timeout before taking advantage of their 5-on-3 power play at 15:59.
It only took Tomas Hertl (2) 50 seconds to score on the two-man advantage, giving the Sharks a four-goal lead, 5-1, at 16:49. Pavelski (4) and Couture (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Hertl’s power play goal.
With 40 minutes in the books, San Jose led, 5-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed, 30-24, in shots on goal to the Ducks. Blocked shots were even at 10-10, while Anaheim led in hits (34-18). The Sharks led in takeaways (10-3) and giveaways (8-5) after two periods and were 1/3 on the power play. Meanwhile, Anaheim did not see any power play time in the second period and was still 1/1 on the man advantage.
Seeing as they were already losing, 5-1, Ducks head coach, Randy Carlyle figured he might as well throw his backup goaltender to the fire and Ryan Miller replaced John Gibson in goal to start the third period.
Sorensen was assessed a minor penalty for holding Marcus Pettersson 5:09 into the third period, but the Ducks were unable to get anything past Jones on the ensuing power play.
Then things only continued to worsen for Anaheim.
Ryan Getzlaf was clearly disinterested by the time the third period rolled around and he let it be known in his undisciplined effort, amassing a slashing penalty and a roughing penalty at 7:22 of the third period. San Jose then went on a four-minute power play and was sure to take advantage of their special teams play.
Pavelski (1) had the puck on his stick with time ticking down on the Sharks power play and beat Miller clean through the five-hole to make it 6-1, San Jose. Meier (2) and Donskoi (2) had the assists on the goal that upped San Jose’s lead from four to five.
After Getzlaf lost his mind, Corey Perry went off and cross-checked everything in sight (that’s a bit of an exaggeration, he only cross checked Kevin Labanc and was sent to the penalty box). Speaking of Getzlaf, he must have said something that a ref didn’t like because as Perry was being assessed his minor penalty at 11:12 of the third period, Getzlaf picked up a 10-minute misconduct, ending his night at SAP Center.
San Jose did not score on the ensuing man advantage.
Eric Fehr tripped Perry moments later and was sent to the sin bin, but the Ducks were not able to convert on the man advantage.
Moments later, Ryan Kesler slashed Sharks blue liner, Paul Martin, and didn’t get to sit for too long in the box as Evander Kane (3) redirected a shot on goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to give San Jose a 7-1 lead with yet another power play goal. Vlasic (1) and Couture (3) assisted on Kane’s goal at 17:16 of the third period.
At 19:24 of the third period, Brandon Montour slashed Fehr and the Sharks converted on yet another power play 12 seconds later to make it 8-1.
Timo Meier (1) pocketed the goal after Chris Tierney fired off a shot while falling. Tierney (1) and Labanc (2) had the assists on what was a franchise playoff record 8th goal of the game for San Jose at 19:36 of the period.
Despite being outhit 43-24 and outshot 46-36 by the Ducks, the San Jose Sharks emerged victorious with a power play that went 3/7 on the night compared to Anaheim’s 1/3 on the man advantage.
At the final horn, San Jose had defeated Anaheim, 8-1, and as a result now has a commanding 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 at SAP Center. The Sharks have outscored the Ducks 13-3 through three games into the series and can sweep Anaheim at home on Wednesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 10:30 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the respective local markets can tune in on GOLF channel in the United States and SN1 and/or TVAS2 in Canada.
There’s not much happening in the world of hockey tonight, as there’s only three games on the schedule in anticipation of an important busy weekend.
First up is Ottawa at Buffalo (SN1/SN360/TVAS) at 7:30 p.m., followed half an hour later by Chicago at St. Louis (NBCSN). Finally, Minnesota visits Anaheim (SN1/SN360) at 10 p.m. to close out the evening’s festivities. All times Eastern.
In terms of percentages, there’s rivalries galore tonight. That will play an especially important role in Missouri, as there’s nothing more the Blackhawks want to do than spoil St. Louis’ playoff push.
However, the tilt that deserves the most attention this evening is taking place on the West Coast between two teams that, though they may not be rivals, are hoping to meet in the Western Conference Finals.
You’re hard pressed to find a hotter team in the Pacific Division than 41-25-13 Anaheim, currently the Western Conference’s first wild card. The Ducks have posted a 7-1-1 record over their past nine games to keep pace with the Kings in the race for third place in the Pacific.
As would be expected by a team with such an impressive record over the last three weeks, there’s been little Anaheim has done wrong during this run. With five skaters having scored at least six points in their last nine games, the Ducks’ offense is averaging an impressive 3.22 goals per game since March 14 to rank 12th-best in the NHL in that time.
However, the Ducks’ attack has paled in comparison to their effort on the defensive end. Led by D Francois Beauchemin (1.6 blocks per game since March 14), C Ryan Getzlaf (13 takeaways in his last eight games) and D Josh Manson (3.6 hits per game during this run), Anaheim has allowed only 30.22 shots against per game since March 14, the eighth-lowest mark in the NHL in that span.
A major note concerning Anaheim’s defense this evening is the absence of D Cam Fowler, who took a strong hit from W Blake Comeau along the boards in Sunday’s game against Colorado. He’d been averaging two blocks per game during the Ducks’ impressive streak and will leave a sizable hole for whoever fills his spot on the blue line.
That being said, it’s not like 31-18-7 G John Gibson has needed all that much help to find success. Having posted a .926 save percentage and 2.43 GAA for the entire season, his defense playing so well in front of him lately has helped him manage an even better .936 save percentage and 1.9 GAA in his last nine starts.
Between Gibson and his defense, Anaheim has allowed only 2.11 goals against per game since March 14, the third-best mark in the NHL over the past three weeks.
Unfortunately, Gibson was another victim of the Avalanche on Sunday, and his upper-body injury is going to make him unavailable for at least tonight’s game. That puts 9-6-6 G Ryan Miller, who completed the 4-3 overtime victory against the Avs, in the spotlight for the undetermined future. Miller has managed a .925 save percentage and 2.51 GAA for the season.
Based on those marks being comparable to Gibson’s and the defense the Ducks have been playing lately, I’d assume it will be business as usual on The Pond this evening provided Fowler’s replacement can perform half as well as he usually does.
Another team playing some spectacular hockey of late are the 44-25-10 Wild, the Central Division’s third place club. Minnesota has posted a 5-1-3 record over its past nine showings, including wins over Vegas and Nashville.
Both the Golden Knights and Predators are certainly capable of lighting up a scoreboard, yet they combined for only three goals in their losses to Minnesota. That’s been a normal occurrence for the Wild during this run, as they’ve allowed only 1.89 goals against per game since March 16, the (t)best mark in the league in that time.
Minnesota’s incredible defense has been a major reason for that success, as it has allowed only 28.33 shots against per game during this run – the third-lowest average in the NHL since March 16. Whether it’s been D Jonas Brodin (two blocks per game since March 16), LW Marcus Foligno (2.6 hits per game during this run) or W Jason Zucker (eight takeaways in his past nine games), the Wild excel at making life extremely difficult on opposing attacks.
Just like Anaheim, Minnesota will also be missing a vital part of its defense for the extended future. D Ryan Suter is out indefinitely with a fractured fibula suffered in Dallas Saturday night. D Carson Soucy made his NHL debut filling in for Suter in the Wild’s first game without him (a 3-0 win over the Oilers), firing three shots and throwing two hits in 15:26 of play on the third pair.
Part of the reason the Wild aren’t in terrible shape without Suter is because they have 34-15-7 G Devan Dubnyk manning the pipes. Though this campaign has been far from the 2015 Masterton-winner’s best – he has a .918 save percentage and 2.52 GAA on the season – Dubnyk has been exemplary when it matters most. In his last seven starts, Dubnyk has managed a .939 save percentage and 1.68 GAA, and he’ll be called upon tonight to stop a hungry Anaheim attack.
With the Wild making the trip into Los Angeles tomorrow night, there were questions whether Dubnyk or 10-10-3 G Alex Stalock, would be in net this evening. According to Michael Russo of The Athletic yesterday at 6 p.m. Eastern, Dubnyk has been confirmed as tonight’s starter.
Not only have the Wild already clinched a spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they need only one point in their remaining three games (or one St. Louis loss of any variety in its last three games) to be locked into third place in the Central Division.
That 5-7-2 record was a long time ago, wasn’t it Minnesota?
If only the future were so certain for the Ducks. Currently the Western Conference’s first wild card, there’s still a chance Anaheim could miss the postseason altogether.
Of course, two points tonight can make the Ducks’ footing a little more certain, as they would jump Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division with only two games to play for both clubs.
Both of the first two meetings between these sides were so close, they required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.
Game 1 took place on December 8 at The Pond, where the Wild claimed a 3-2 overtime victory (D Mathew Dumba scored the game-winner). However, Minnesota couldn’t successfully defend home ice when the Ducks came to St. Paul on February 17, as Anaheim stole a 3-2 shootout win (LW Nick Ritchie claimed First Star honors for ending the 11-round shootout).
The fact that the Ducks have an offense that is playing slightly better lately paired with home ice advantage leads me to thinking Anaheim should earn two points tonight. However, as well as Minnesota’s defense has been performing, it just might be able to force overtime to lock in its playoff position.
Led by First Star of the Game G Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s 33-save shutout, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins 4-0 at Amalie Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Between Tampa’s defense holding the Bruins to only eight shots on goal and G Tuukka Rask saving all 17 shots the Bolts managed to send his way, this game had the looks of a tight affair after the first period ended scoreless.
That all changed in the second period, as Tampa registered three of its four goals in the span of 9:26, starting with F Brayden Point‘s (RW Nikita Kucherov and Second Star D Braydon Coburn) game-winning wrist shot at the 5:01 mark.
Kucherov deserves a lot of credit for setting up this goal, as the way he skated circles around LW Brad Marchand and C Patrice Bergeron to get the puck into the offensive zone would probably be a suitable audition for hockey’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Once Kucherov reached the left face-off circle, he flung a pass across the zone to Point, who proceeded to rip his wrister from above the right face-off circle. Though it was a long distance, Point’s dart to the far post sneaked under Rask’s right arm and into the back of the net.
But the Lightning were far from done with that tally. D Victor Hedman (Coburn and Third Star RW Ryan Callahan) doubled Tampa Bay’s advantage 5:58 later with a slap shot, followed by LW Chris Kunitz‘ (Callahan and D Dan Girardi) wrister setting the score at 3-0 with 5:33 remaining in the frame.
Even though the Bruins out-shot the Bolts 12-3 in the third period, F J.T. Miller was the only player to score in the final frame. He buried his unassisted snap shot 2:34 into the period to set the 4-0 final score.
While Vasilevskiy was busy earning his eighth shutout of the season, Rask saved 32-of-36 shots faced in the loss (.889 save percentage).
With Tampa’s victory at Amalie Arena, the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series now have a 100-54-21 record that is 48 points better than the roadies’.
With eight games on the schedule this Sunday, surely it’s possible to find a game for everybody to watch.
The day’s action finds its start at 3 p.m. with Detroit at Colorado, followed an hour later by Calgary at Vegas (SN360). 5 p.m. is a major starting time today, as three tilts (Edmonton at Tampa Bay, Carolina at the New York Islanders and Washington at Philadelphia [NHLN]) will get underway then. Another pair of matchups (St. Louis at Chicago [NBCSN] and Dallas at Winnipeg [SN/TVAS]) drop the puck at 7:30 p.m., with New Jersey at Anaheim closing the night out 90 minutes later. All times Eastern.
There’s a few rivalries on tap today, and the return of a former player as well.
- Detroit at Colorado: Man, the Avs and Wings played some serious games in the late 90s, didn’t they?
- Washington at Philadelphia: Both of these teams are in desperate need of two points, but only one is going to come away from this contest happy.
- St. Louis at Chicago: Somehow, today is only the Blues’ first visit to Chicago all season. A win is a must to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
- New Jersey at Anaheim: After joining the Ducks’ organization since being drafted 106th-overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, D Sami Vatanen was shipped to the Devils in late November.
In addition to the Vatanen story, both the Devils and Ducks are in brutal fistfights to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. That alone is reason enough to take in that game!
Though they’ve certainly experienced their ups and downs this season, the 37-26-8 Devils are playing some solid hockey right now (look no further than yesterday’s 3-0 shutout victory at Staples Center).
In fact, New Jersey has posted an impressive 4-1-0 record over its last five games, and it’s all because of some stellar play on the offensive end.
The Devils have featured some of my favorite rookies this season, and it’s been their play paired with the equally stellar contributions of some of the league’s most respected veterans that have been behind an offense that has averaged a second-best 4.2 goals per game since March 6.
Over the past five games, no Devil has played quite like reigning number one-overall pick C Nico Hischier, who’s managed 3-2-5 totals to inflate his season marks to 16-30-46 – the second-best on a team that also features a fellow by the name of F Taylor Hall (31-45-76).
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have veterans like F Brian Boyle (2-3-5 totals over his last five games) and C Travis Zajac (3-1-4 since March 6) – not to mention fellow rookie phenom D Will Butcher (averaging an assist-per-game for his last five showings) – helping to share the load. After hitting a bit of a slump in January, this offense has rediscovered its form lately in anticipation of a playoff surge.
Another vital component to these winning ways has been the stellar play of 19-9-2 G Keith Kinkaid. Taking responsibility for all of the Devils’ last four wins (despite a defense that has allowed an 11th-worst 34.6 shots against since March 6), he’s posted an impressive .94 save percentage and 2.21 GAA in those starts to increase his season marks to a .909 save percentage and 2.85 GAA.
However, since Kinkaid earned yesterday’s shutout victory over the Kings, it would seem likely Head Coach John Hynes will give usual starter 17-14-6 G Cory Schneider the nod tonight (it is his birthday, after all) on the tail end of the back-to-back, especially considering the only reason the backup has been getting the starts lately is because he’s been the hot hand. Schneider has earned a .912 save percentage and 2.81 GAA on the season, but has posted an abysmal 0-8-2 record in his last 10 starts going back to December 29 having allowed no fewer than three goals in any of those games.
Between Kinkaid and Schneider, the Devils have allowed only 2.4 goals against per game since March 6, the seventh-best mark in the NHL in that time.
So we can compare apples to apples, let’s see how 36-24-12 Anaheim has performed over its last five games. Though the Ducks are currently riding a two-game winning streak, they were riding a three-game losing skid beforehand, meaning Anaheim is 2-3-0 in its last five showings.
Just like offense is the reason the Devils are winning lately, offense – or the lack thereof – is the reason the Ducks have not been as successful lately as they would like. Even with C Ryan Getzlaf averaging a point per game during this run with 1-4-5 totals (10-42-52 on the season), Anaheim is averaging only 2.4 goals per game since March 8, the (t)sixth-fewest in the NHL in that time.
What makes those offensive struggles even more frustrating is the fact that Anaheim’s defense and goaltending gives it a chance to win every night. Led by D Cam Fowler (1.8 blocks per game since March 8), W Ondrej Kase (averaging a takeaway per game in his last five showings) and LW Nick Ritchie (three hits per game over this run), the Ducks’ defense has allowed only 30 shots against per game since March 8 – the 12th-best mark in the NHL. With that lighter workload, 27-17-6 G John Gibson has sparkled, posting a .911 save percentage and 2.54 GAA in his last four starts for a .926 save percentage and 2.47 GAA on the season as a whole.
Mix those things together, and you get a Ducks team that has allowed only 2.4 goals against per game since March 8 – the (t)sixth-lowest mark in the NHL in that time.
With New Jersey currently in a playoff spot, this game has to mean more for the Ducks, right? With the Kings being inactive tonight, anything better than a regulation loss propels Anaheim into third place in the Pacific Division. However, the very fact that the Kings are not playing tonight is also to the Ducks’ detriment, as Los Angeles will have a game on hand on Anaheim coming out of the weekend (that game in hand is the Kings’ tilt in Minnesota tomorrow).
With a five-point edge on the ninth-place Panthers, the potential to fall out of the playoffs has relaxed ever so slightly for second wildcard New Jersey (but remember, the Panthers still have two games in hand). However, there’s still more than enough time for Jersey to climb the table, as a win tonight would propel it into at least the first wild card, with the chance for third place in the Metropolitan Division should the Flyers fall to Washington.
The Ducks made their yearly trip to New Jersey way back on December 18, but it wasn’t exactly an enjoyable trip to the Garden State as they were treated to a 5-3 loss. RW Stefan Noesen led the way for the Devils in that contest, as he scored two third period goals – including the game-winner – to earn First Star of the Game honors.
This has the potential to be one of those weird games. We have an excellent offense in the Devils going up against a solid defense and goaltender, while Anaheim’s struggling attack gets the benefit of squaring off against slumping competition in Jersey’s defensive zone. Considering the Devils just played yesterday, I suppose Anaheim has the upper hand tonight, but this game might just boil down to which team scores last.
Behind a shutout from First Star of the Game G Tuukka Rask, the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 at Amalie Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Rask was obviously solid in this game considering he saved all 23 shots that came his way, but I would argue the most impressive part about that statistic is his defense limiting the Bolts to so few attempts.
After all, Tampa was trailing for 56:53 of this game, as that’s when Third Star RW David Pastrnak (Second Star D Torey Krug and D Adam McQuaid) scored the game-winning goal. After ending up with the puck following a scrum along the boards between F Tommy Wingels and two Bolts, McQuaid tapped a pass along the blue line to Krug. The Michigander proceeded to center a pass to Pastrnak, who drove towards G Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s right post before backhanding a shot into the back of the net.
With D Mikhail Sergachev getting sent to the penalty box for hi-sticking RW Brian Gionta with 7:37 remaining in the second period, F Riley Nash (W Rick Nash and Krug) completed the game’s scoring with a power play wrister only 10 seconds later, setting the 3-0 final score.
Vasilevskiy takes the loss after saving 24-of-27 shots faced (.889 save percentage).
There’s no stopping road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series lately, as they’ve posted eight-straight games where they earned at least a point. As such, the 87-52-19 hosts’ advantage in the series has been trimmed to 32 points.
Now that all the byes are done, we have one last week of action before the All-Star Break starts on Friday. Let’s mash as much hockey into these five days as possible!
We have a nice sampling of five games on tap today. The first, Philadelphia at Washington (NBC/TVAS), drops the puck at 12:30 p.m. Vegas at Carolina is next up at 6 p.m., followed two hours later by Vancouver at Winnipeg (SN). 9 p.m. marks the start of San Jose at Anaheim, while the New York Rangers at Los Angeles (SN1) – tonight’s nightcap – waits until 10:30 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.
There’s nothing more fun than rivalry games, and we have two on today’s schedule: Philly at Washington and San Jose at Anaheim. Of those, I have higher expectations for the contest in California, so it’s off to The Pond with us!
The 25-14-6 Sharks enter this rivalry game having won four of their last five contests and – as a result – in second place in the Pacific Division.
Even though San Jose hasn’t exactly been the shining example of offensive efficiency by averaging an 11th-worst 2.78 goals-per-game for the entire season, scoring has been the trendy thing of late inside the Sharks’ dressing room. Since January 13, the Sharks have averaged 3.4 goals per game, the eighth-best mark in the NHL in that time.
This has been far from a banner year for D Brent Burns, but he’s been a big reason for the San Jose goal-explosion. He’s managed only .82 points per game this season (a decline from his last two campaigns), but this five-game stretch has seen him post a team-leading seven assists.
However, not all passes are created equal: someone has to score for Burns’ passes for them to become assists. Lately, that man has been Joe Thornton, who’s been just as good as Burns during this run. Jumbo Joe has posted solid 4-2-6 totals since January 13 to improve his season effort to 12-21-33 marks, the second-highest point total on the squad.
Of note, 11-3-2 G Aaron Dell started yesterday’s 2-1 home victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, with 14-11-4 G Martin Jones being listed day-to-day, Dell will complete the back-to-back with another start today. Dell’s 2.18 GAA and .928 save percentage are fourth and (t)fifth-best in the league, so there is very little drop-off between him and Jones.
G Troy Grosenick, who has a 5-7-2 record with the Barracuda in the AHL, will serve as the Sharks’ backup.
While San Jose was busy knocking off the Pens, the 22-16-9 Ducks, who currently sit in 11th place in the Western Conference and two points behind the second wild card, had the luxury of being dormant during yesterday’s action-packed Saturday schedule.
The story surrounding the Ducks since their bye week has been the return of their star forwards – and duly so. However, since January 13, the Ducks have posted a 3-1-0 record on the back of their defense that has allowed a 10th-best 2.25 goals against-per-game in that time.
Whether it’s the leadership of D Josh Manson‘s 2.3 blocks per game or LW Nick Ritchie‘s four hits per game since January 13, the defensive zone has been a stronghold lately for the Ducks. Anaheim has allowed an average of only 27.75 shots against per game over its last four contests (the sixth-best mark in the NHL in that time), making life very easy for 16-13-5 G John Gibson.
Of course, what else should we expect from Manson? After all, his +20 rating on the season is the eighth-best in the entire NHL.
Anyways, speaking of Gibson, he’s riding a three-game winning streak thanks to the impressive work of his defensive corps. In his last three starts, he’s managed a .927 save percentage and 2.01 GAA, pulling his season numbers up to .923 and 2.59.
The Ducks and Sharks were scheduled for a four-game regular season series this year, but there was an odd quirk with how the games were arranged: the first two contests took place in San Jose, while the remaining two (tonight and February 11) will be played at Honda Center. Both games in The Tank required a shootout to determine a victor, with the Sharks claiming the first meeting 2-1 on November 4 and the Ducks taking the second 3-2 only 16 days later.
In what has the potential to be a very nasty, physical matchup, the better defense should end up with two points to their credit following the final horn. Considering how the Ducks have been performing lately and the fact that they are playing at home after a day off, I’m leaning towards Anaheim being that winning team tonight.
With a 2-1 shootout victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Winnipeg Jets snapped the Calgary Flames’ seven-game winning streak.
D T.J. Brodie (RW Troy Brouwer) seems to have a knack for scoring against the Jets, because he provided the Flames’ lone regulation goal. He registered his fifth point against the Jets of the season by burying a wrist shot 8:17 into the game for the Flames’ lone goal of regulation.
Winnipeg found its leveling goal with 9:13 remaining in the second period. F Mathieu Perreault (F Bryan Little and First Star of the Game W Nikolaj Ehlers) sneaked a tip-in past Second Star G Mike Smith, tying the game at 1-1.
In the remaining 29:13 of regulation, neither the Flames nor the Jets could find another goal. Both defenses performed solidly, as neither allowed more than nine shots on goal in the third period. Similarly, only a combined five shots on goal were registered in the five minutes of three-on-three overtime. With none tickling the twine, the contest advanced into the shootout.
As the home team, the Flames elected to shoot second…
- That sent Little to center ice first, and he did not disappoint. He beat Smith to give Winnipeg an early 1-0 lead in the shootout.
- C Mark Jankowski was called on to level the shootout for the Flames, but he sent his shot wide of Third Star G Connor Hellebuyck‘s net.
- Still with a 1-0 advantage, RW Patrik Laine tried to force a miss-and-lose situation for the Flames. However, his backhanded shot was saved by Smith.
- C Sean Monahan performed better than Jankowski, but only because his wrister was saved by Hellebuyck.
- A goal is all the Jets needed to end the game, and F Blake Wheeler did just that to earn Winnipeg the bonus point.
Hellebuyck earned the victory after saving 30-of-31 shots faced (.968 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Smith, who saved 34-of-35 (.971).
In addition to snapping Calgary’s seven-game winning streak, the Jets’ road victory also snapped a four-game winning streak by home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day. The 59-34-13 hosts now have 23-point advantage over the visitors.
There are good Mondays in the NHL, and there are bad Mondays in the NHL.
This is one of the bad ones, as there’s only five games on the schedule for our viewing pleasure. Three of tonight’s contests (Columbus at Boston [SN/TVAS], Anaheim at New Jersey and Los Angeles at Philadelphia [NHLN]) drop the puck at 7 p.m., while the evening’s co-nightcaps – Pittsburgh at Colorado and San Jose at Edmonton – will get underway at 9 p.m. All times Eastern.
Who would’ve guessed it, but I already have notes on a couple of today’s games.
- Anaheim at New Jersey: C Adam Henrique had been a member of the Devils’ organization since 2008. After being traded at the end of last month, he’ll make his first-ever trip to the Prudential Center as a member of the road squad.
- San Jose at Edmonton: The Western Quarterfinals might have been eight months ago, but that won’t dull the Sharks’ desire to exact revenge on the Oil for eliminating them at The Tank.
It’s been a while since we’ve watched a Ducks game. Let’s see if Henrique gets a warm welcome.
Selected in the third round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Devils’ organization is the only professional hockey team Henrique has ever known. After completing his fourth and final season with the Windsor Spitfires, he reported to the capital of New York at the start of the 2010-’11 season before earning his first NHL experience on April 11, 2011.
Henrique would retain his spot on the senior roster for most of the 2011-’12 season, and has not seen the AHL since the 2012-’13 campaign. In all, Henrique played 455 games over eight seasons with New Jersey, managing decent 122-135-257 totals over that time to average .56 points-per-game.
But even a decent résumé could not save him from being traded at the end of November. With 14 points to his name over his first 24 games played this season, he was shipped to Anaheim to help the Ducks with their injury-laden offense (W Patrick Eaves, F Ryan Kesler, F Mike Liambas, W Corey Perry and LW Nick Ritchie are all currently on injured reserve). I’m sure the Devils had been happy with how he’d been playing this year, but with him under contract for only one more season following this one and the opportunity to snag D Sami Vatanen through the 2019-’20 season and a potential draft pick sitting on the table, this was a no-brainer for Devils General Manager Ray Shero.
Since trading for Henrique, Anaheim has earned a 3-1-4 record to improve its season mark to 14-11-8, which is good enough for 11th place in the Western Conference. The Ducks have played especially good of late, as they’ve earned points in seven-consecutive contests.
However, even by adding Henrique to the Ducks’ second line, the true core of this team is its incredible effort on the defensive end, which has allowed a (t)fifth-lowest 18 goals since November 30.
Led by D Francois Beauchemin‘s 2.62 blocks-per-game and F Chris Wagner‘s 3.62 hits-per-game since the end of November, the Ducks’ defense has been a decent presence, allowing only 256 shots against – the 10th-fewest in the NHL. However, when he’s been on the ice – as he will be tonight – 3-0-4 G Ryan Miller has been the true star. He’s started only two games since Henrique’s arrival, but he’s earned three points in those efforts with his dominant .969 save percentage and .96 GAA to elevate his season numbers to a .945 save percentage and 1.74 GAA. On the season, Miller is second-best in both statistics among the 64 netminders with at least four starts.
Given the unenviable task of trying to give Miller his first regulation loss of the season are the 18-9-5 Devils, the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division. Similar to Anaheim, New Jersey has also turned into a defensive team since trading for Vatanen, as it has allowed only 22 goals since his arrival – the 13th-fewest in the NHL.
Just like Anaheim, even though 13-6-4 Cory Schneider has had some excellent assistance from F Brian Gibbons (10 takeaways), D Andy Greene (2.5 blocks-per-game) and D Steven Santini (3.4 hits-per-game) during this run, he’s been the true stud on the defensive end. Since November 30, he’s posted a .932 save percentage and 1.99 GAA to earn nine points in the standings and elevate his season numbers to a .921 save percentage and 2.58 GAA, both top-10 efforts among the 31 goaltenders with at least 16 starts.
In a defensive matchup like this, it’s going to boil down to which offense can impose its will better. Considering Jersey’s offense has been stronger both since the trade and on the season as a whole, I’d bank on the Devils earning two points at home tonight – no matter how strong a fight Miller puts up.
On the back of First Star of the Game F Patrick Kane‘s two-goal performance, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 at the United Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Only one goal apiece was struck in the first two periods, and they both belonged to Kane. The first period’s marker – a Kane (F Nick Schmaltz and F Artem Anisimov) slap shot – was struck with 9:04 remaining in the frame. Showtime (D Jordan Oesterle and D Duncan Keith) scored again with 4:24 remaining in the second period with a wrist shot that proved to be the game-winner.
Coming off the bench, Kane was simply fortunate to be the beneficiary of a stellar Oesterle pass that crossed both blue lines. That pass, which extended well beyond 50 feet, set Kane up for a one-on-one scenario against G Alex Stalock, and he took advantage to beat the backup’s five hole to the left post.
Thanks to Third Star RW Ryan Hartman‘s unassisted wrister 1:41 into the third period, the Hawks earned themselves a three-goal advantage, but D Mathew Dumba (D Ryan Suter and F Charlie Coyle) was able to pull the Wild back within a two-goal deficit 4:15 later. That’s as close as Minnesota could get however, and F Tommy Wingels set the 4-1 final score with an unassisted shorthanded backhanded shot with four minutes remaining in the game.
Second Star G Corey Crawford earned the victory after saving 27-of-28 shots faced (.964 save percentage), leaving the loss to Stalock, who saved 42-of-45 (.933).
Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have rediscovered their winning ways, as Chicago’s victory was the hosts’ third-straight. That has improved the homers’ record in the series to 42-24-9, 18 points better than the visitors.