A 3-2 overtime loss against the Blackhawks derailed the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Tonight, they look to get back on track with a win against the Minnesota Wild.
Sunday’s loss against the Chicago Blackhawks was a hard pill to swallow. The Anaheim Ducks came out strong, playing well in the first few minutes of the first period. From there, it all went downhill, and the Ducks looked like the team with a 3-6-3 season record. While it would have been nice for the entire team to rally together for a win in Ryan Getzlaf‘s 1,000th game, you lose some, you win some, and Sunday was just not their night.
With the Minnesota Wild in town, however, it’s time for the Ducks to get back on track. Ondrej Kase is back in the lineup, Max Jones has been recalled and given his marching orders, and John Gibson is back in net. The Ducks are still down two top 4 defensemen, but Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm have both been stepping up. Tonight shouldn’t be a difficult game for the Ducks, but there are still a few areas the team needs to work on.
Get Things Going With a Strong Start
Solid starts haven’t been the Anaheim Ducks strong suit this season. It has been difficult for them to get things going in the first period, which has led to some untimely goals from the opposition. With the Minnesota Wild in town, the last thing the Ducks want is for Bruce Boudreau and his crew to walk into the first intermission with any advantage.
When they aren’t significantly outplayed, the Wild has done a decent job this season getting on the board first. In 8 of their 14 games, they’ve been the first team on the scoreboard and it is imperative that the Ducks do not allow that to happen tonight. John Gibson will be back in net, so he is going to be a big factor in limiting the Wild from taking advantage of any opportunity given to them. However, the defense needs to step up in a big way. They need to maintain good positioning, initiate breakouts, protect their goaltender, and most importantly, do their job.
To start strong, it is also important that Anaheim takes advantage of all of their opportunities. As Coach Eakins said in a recent interview about Max Jones:
"“And the last thing is he needs to work for his chances and them be simplistic when they’re there.”"
While this quote was directed at Jones, it is true for the entire team. They have to work hard for their chances and make things simple. Scoring goals doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it have to be pretty, they just have to make it into the back of the net. The more shots on goal the Ducks can generate, the more likely they are to score goals.
The entire team also has to bring the energy tonight. If they can’t play an energized first period, they’re more likely to get discouraged when things don’t go their way. If they can control the play in the first period, even if they don’t score a goal, they have a better chance of winning when the final buzzer sounds.
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Don’t Play Down to the Wild
It is no secret that the Minnesota Wild have struggled this season. The team is currently 4-9-1 so far this year, putting them 29th in the league with 9 points in 14 games. The Anaheim Ducks may have their struggles, but statistically, they are performing much better than the Wild this season. It seems like an easy win tonight, right? Not necessarily.
Whenever a team comes into Honda Center with a significantly worse season record than them, the Anaheim Ducks have the tendency to play down to that team. We saw a little bit of that on Sunday night against the Blackhawks, a team that is in a similar situation to the Wild, and the Ducks lost 3-2 in overtime.
When the Ducks play down to a team, they tend to get lazy and sloppy. Their hope is that they can get lucky with a few goals and rely on their own goaltender to bail them out when it matters most. That is a bad habit that has carried over from the Randy Carlyle days, and Dallas Eakins needs to break it immediately.
Tonight’s game will not be determined by which team has a better season record than the other. Tonight’s game will be determined by which team plays harder than the other. If the Ducks play down to the Wild and Minnesota gives it their all, Anaheim will find themselves in a very difficult situation should their opponents somehow take control of the game.
Quite frankly, the Anaheim Ducks penalties have gotten out of control. Their penalty kill has definetly been getting a workout. However, the issue at hand is something that needs to be addressed. If the team cannot comply, there needs to be consequences; whether that means less ice time or sitting in the press box, Dallas Eakins has to figure that one out.
If the issue is not addressed, there will be no resolution to the Anaheim Ducks penalty issues. Tonight is a good place to start. The Minnesota Wild, despite their regular season struggles, has a decent power-play that is sitting at almost league average. Anaheim doesn’t want to give them the advantage, so, what do they do? Limit their penalties.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Some penalties cannot be avoided. Nevertheless, most of the Ducks penalties have been careless. If they stay aware of their surroundings, and put more thought into their body positioning and stick placement.
A few seasons ago, the New Jersey Devils found themselves in somewhat of a similar situation. Instead of avoiding it and sweeping the issue under the rug, Coach John Hynes did what he could to find the solution, and Dallas Eakins should take notes:
"“Head coach John Hynes wanted the players to pay attention to their body positioning and stick placement in an attempt to avoid another game featuring a parade to the penalty box, like they experienced last night. The players worked on battle drills that put them in situations to potentially expose their tendencies to take stick penalties, and every time Hynes saw one, he’d stop practice and make them sprint. He also stopped practice anytime he saw something he didn’t like, and then explained what it was and the adjustment he’d like them to make so it didn’t happen again. The goal is to improve their habits both with and without the puck.”"
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