Opening night for the Anaheim Ducks ended in disappointment. Thankfully, our beloved team has the chance to redeem themselves against the Vegas Golden Knights tonight. With a shortened season and all of our games scheduled against our division rivals, the Ducks cannot afford to lose against the big boys if they want to compete for a wildcard spot.
The chase for the playoffs begins tonight, on the road against a rival the Ducks have struggled to beat: the Vegas Golden Knights. With new faces, the Ducks will look to flip the script. To do just that, they should follow this blueprint if they want to soar past the Knights.
Gib Me a Victory
John Gibson is in his eighth season with the Anaheim Ducks. In the previous seven seasons, he’s proven to be the number one goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks. One of the individual awards that have eluded him, however, is the Vezina Trophy, the award given to the best goaltender.
If he plans on bringing home some hardware, this is the best way to get off to a fast start. The Ducks have beaten the Golden Knights only twice of the twelve games. If the Ducks win tonight, Gibson must have a stellar performance.
That doesn’t mean he has to take on more than he can chew. It does mean that when the backs are against the wall, Gibson must stand tall against a potent Knights’ offense. It won’t be an easy task, as the Knights have one of the NHL’s potent offensive cores in the league. That said, if the Ducks are to earn a win on opening night, the Ducks’ starting goalie must spearhead a masterpiece against a divisional rival that has dominated against the Ducks in recent history.
No Being Bad Boys
Playing the Vegas Golden Knights is hard enough. Playing them on the road is even harder. Playing the Knights on the road, and you’re in the sin bin, and you’re asking to get beat. The Anaheim Ducks must play with discipline.
Don’t commit silly penalties, mainly because the Knights’ power-play unit is lethal. Whether it’s J-March (Jonathan Marchessault), Patches, (Max Pacioretty), Wild Bill (William Karlsson), etc., this Golden Knights power-play unit isn’t a unit that you want to play fire with.
To stay out of the box, the Ducks must keep their feet chopping against these fast Knights’ forwards. What makes playing against the Golden Knights difficult, is their team speed. They can create matchups that favor them. If I were the Ducks, I would rely on team communication. Make sure that everyone is where they are supposed to be, so that no one is left wide open, and someone commits a penalty to prevent a goal.
New and Old Fly as One
As Jan said in D2, New and Old Ducks must learn to fly as one. That can be said for this Ducks squad. While there are several new guys on the team, I will highlight three of the new guys that need to step up.
Kevin Shattenkirk: Shattenkirk is joining three defensive stalwarts (Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson). Not only is Shattenkirk a defensive asset, but he can also take off pressure from Cam Fowler as the power-play quarterback. Whoever Kevin is paired with; he needs to make sure that he along with his defensive partner is on the same page with the forward line against the Knights.
Sonny Milano: Milano was a ray of sunshine last year in his nine games that he played with the Anaheim Ducks. Though he scored only two goals and had only five points, both goals were against the Edmonton Oilers, including the game-winner in overtime. I wrote before that Milano will have a fifty-point season, and if he does, this would be a good way to start the season against the rival Golden Knights.
Jacob Larsson: While Larsson isn’t technically new, Larsson will be stepping into a key role. With Brandon Guhle out, Larsson will be a part of the starting lineup, playing on the third line of defense. Most likely, his defensive partner will be Jani Hakanpaa. Larsson has been on the Ducks for a few years, but this is his chance to show that he can produce in a starter’s role. He, along with Jani, needs to make sure that they can log some minutes, to give the top-four Ducks defensemen a chance to relax.
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These three new Ducks must play a huge role if the Ducks are to be victorious on the road against the Golden Knights. If not, it’s going to be a long night in Vegas.
The Head of the Table
Finally, for the Anaheim Ducks to be successful against the Golden Knights, the head of the table must rise and shine. The head of the table is the long-tenured captain of the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf. Getzy must lead the team by example.
He must be the calm in the storm because the Golden Knights have frustrated our Ducks in games past. Getzlaf must make sure that he keeps a calm demeanor, yet at the same time, put people in a position to succeed on both sides of the rink.
Getzlaf’s presence on the ice is crucial, not only because he’s the leader, but mainly because he’s one of the few stalwarts on offense that can generate some chances. His passing abilities have created scoring chances for his line-mates. That is key going against a Vegas team that looks to score in bunches.
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