Things went sideways for the Anaheim Ducks after facing the Buffalo Sabres for the first time last season. Determined not to repeat history, how can they overcome the challenges ahead?
It’s game day, and the Buffalo Sabres are making their annual visit to Orange County! For some of us, our anxiety is through the roof; we know full well that the Anaheim Ducks season really started to take a nosedive after their first contest against the Buffalo Sabres last season on Paul Kariya night. Nevertheless, last season’s early success was brought to you by major puck luck. Still, the team is determined not to repeat history, despite the challenges ahead.
The Buffalo Sabres have started the season off hot, currently sitting at the top of the league with 11 points and one OT loss shy of a perfect season record (5-0-1.) Despite being a team that is laden with injuries, including former Anaheim Duck, Brandon Montour, they have been intense, exciting, and inspiring.
Will they run away with the season? At this point, no one really knows. The confidence of this young Sabres team grows with each win they procure, but their early dominance hasn’t really been put to the test. Sure, they’ve faced challenging teams, but Buffalo has proven to be especially good in the comfort of their own home. How will they fair so far from the familiar?
While the Anaheim Ducks don’t have a near-perfect record like Buffalo does, they’ve been a sweet surprise for the Pacific Division this year. Granted, it’s only October and a lot can change between now and the end of the season. Nevertheless, we’ve seen that refreshing and youthful glow return to the Ducks that we haven’t seen in a long time. They’ve been relentless and have continued to stand their ground. Tonight’s game isn’t going to be an easy feat for the Ducks. Anaheim is sure to face a number of challenges, but they’re sure to provide the Sabres with a few troubles of their own.
Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy the Game
Game 7: Anaheim Ducks vs Buffalo Sabres (Tickets)
Season Record: 4-2-0
Location: Honda Center— Anaheim, California
Time: 7:00 pm PST
TV: Prime Ticket, ESPN+
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3 Keys to Overcoming the Challenges Against the Buffalo Sabres
Pointless Penalties Need to Stop: 23 penalties in 6 games has left the Anaheim Ducks shorthanded for 50 minutes. Last season, the team struggled with taking pointless penalties, ending the 2018-19 season 4th in penalties and 2nd in minor penalties. If they can’t figure out how to limit their time in the box, they’ll find themselves in the same boat as last year: outnumbered and outplayed.
Going into Game 7 against the Buffalo Sabres, they’re going up against one of the best power-play units currently in the NHL. Their PP is strong, skilled, and sleek. If the Ducks can stay out of the box, they can limit Buffalo’s opportunities with the one-man advantage. Staying sharp, being mindful of their surroundings, and keeping their heads on straight when things get heated will be essential in staying out of the sin bin.
A Strong Penalty Kill is Important: The Buffalo Sabres have 9 power-play goals so far this season. Nine! In only six games. With Victor Olofsson (who’s scored 5 PP goals), Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Dahlin on their first power-play unit, it’s no wonder the team has one of the best PP’s currently in the league at 42.86%; a full 20.86% above the league average!
It is imperative for the Anaheim Ducks to have a strong PK in their game against the Sabres. Although one of their goals should be to stay away from taking pointless penalties, it’s almost unavoidable for them not to take at least one. The good news is that the Ducks PK has been perfect at home, sitting at a solid 100%. However, they’ve only been shorthanded five times at home compared to 13 times on the road, and their PK on the road hasn’t been outstanding, at 78.6%.
Despite their struggles on the road, the Anaheim Ducks still have one of the top 10 PK’s in the league, at #9. There is more good news. The goaltender is often considered the best penalty killer, and the Anaheim Ducks have John Gibson. Need I say more? Nevertheless, the players on the penalty kill still need to be engaged. It’s important for them to keep their sticks active in order to block passing lanes and shots, limit shots in tight, and keep second and third chances to a minimum.
You Can’t Win Games if You Can’t Score Goals: The Anaheim Ducks struggled to score goals last season, and that problem has seemed to follow them into the new year. Having only scored 13 goals in six games, they are currently 24th in goals for, which isn’t necessarily impressive. Buffalo has scored 11 goals more than Anaheim in as many games, which doesn’t help their case.
Scoring goals is the main objective tonight. It is more than likely that Carter Hutton will defend the crease for the Sabres; his save percentage currently sitting at .931%. It’s important for the Ducks to learn to read Hutton to create more scoring chances. They must penetrate the house, take the ice that is in front of them, get their stick in passing lanes, and create second and third chances by jumping on rebounds.
Creativity, a strong net-front presence, quick thinking, and staying unpredictable are going to be paramount to creating more scoring chances, and ultimately, scoring goals. Dallas Eakins hasn’t been afraid to shake things up with his lineup, which will hopefully aid the team when it comes to their goal-scoring conundrum.
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