PUCK DROP: 4pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN, NBCSN, WGN Radio
DUCK TALES (Woohoo): Anaheim Calling
Some games you know that the opponent has had circled on the schedule, even if the Hawks know better than to make too much of a regular season game. Then again, the Ducks are so practiced at seeing teams that had beaten them in a Game 7 the previous year maybe they don’t make that much of a deal out of it anymore. Either way, the Hawks return to Anaheim for the first time since they got to partake in the annual giveaway of a playoff series in Orange County last spring.
While things have improved from their horrific start for the Ducks, they haven’t exactly kicked the tires and lit the fires yet. Since a four-game winnings streak to start November the Ducks have gone 3-4-2, The problems remain the same as they were when the Hawks saw this outfit at home in October and they were spiraling the drain. They’ve been horribly unlucky, still shooting an abysmal 4.6% at even-strength, worst in the league. They’ve gotten below par goaltending, and have recently called up John Gibson is an attempt to fix it. He came on in relief against Calgary and got their last start on Wednesday, losing to the Coyotes.
On the downside, human lesion Corey Perry has started scoring again, with seven on the season, all in the last 12 games. Ryan Getzlaf still only has one on the season to go with 14 assists, Sami Vatanen and Rickard Rakell are the only other Ducks with more than three goals.
The numbers are going to correct for the Ducks at some point. They’re not going to shoot under 5% for the season, and when they do correct the Ducks should shoot up the standings in a simply awful Pacific Division. But that doesn’t mean it has to start tomorrow. The Ducks structural problems are pretty obvious. Other than the goaltending the defense just isn’t all that impressive. Somehow Kevin Bieksa has been worse than anticipated, which is saying something because we all thought he’d be nothing short of a disaster when they made the trade. Only Hampus! Hampus! is driving possession at something resembling an impressive rate, with Cam Fowler on his 34th consecutive season of not taking a leap. Clayton Stoner remains a moron.
For the Hawks, the lineup looks to be remaining the same, with Teuvo Teravainen not quite ready to return from whatever’s ailing him. Viktor Tikhonov will remain in the pressbox so we can all be wowed by Brandon Mashinter’s five minutes. Toews will remain between Shaw and Garbutt which has actually worked the past two games, as will Hossa with Kero which has most certainly not. Corey Crawford will start again after not really having all that much to do against the Sharks.
By now you know the gameplan the Ducks will have. It’s all straight lines, it’s all running into whatever they see and trying to punish the Hawks into mistakes and turnovers. They’ll be physical and underground Greek gay porn hard, enacting the plan that didn’t work back in May. Outside of Getzlaf and Perry on the top line, this team much like the Blues doesn’t have a terrible amount of east-west to its attack, and standing up to their physicality and not surrendering the blue line can blunt most of it.
However, while we make fun of Bruce Boudreau a lot, even he should be able to figure out to get Getzlaf and Perry on the ice against any pairing that’s not Keith and Hammer, which the Sharks’ DeBoer couldn’t actually put together. That’s what’s given the Hawks trouble in Canada on this trip. If Gabby can’t even get that far, you’ll know for sure that the Ducks aren’t anything to worry about in May again. Not that you are anyway.
The Hawks have regularly taken this traditional Black Friday game in Anaheim, though it usually involved Patrick Sharp lighting the Ducks up. Toews has done it on occasion as well. The last time these two teams played the Ducks severely outplayed the Hawks but Crawford stood tall and kept them at bay. The Hawks will look to do better today.