FACEOFF: 9pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN for both
WHERE WE’LL BE: The Globe Pub, Irving and Damen
It’s almost here now, the Olympic Break. The Hawks only have two road games left before adjourning to different tropical climes (including Sochi) for a couple of weeks. But these are not games where they can keep the bus running, as tonight sees the top two Western teams go at it and Friday the Hawks will deal with a Coyotes team scrapping for the last playoff spot in the West. Any loss of focus will see the Hawks swiftly cut down.
However, what they will see across the ice tonight is another West power that’s been sputtering a bit lately. Gee, it’s like every team goes through the midseason doldrums or something. While the Ducks took back-to-back games against the Kings, another team that can only find reverse gear at the moment, on either side of that they’ve been popped at home by the Jets, Wild, Stars, and on Monday the Blue Jackets. Before that they hadn’t lost in regulation in Disneyland’s parking lot. So it’s not all going smoothly for them, either.
The Ducks’ problems aren’t the same as the Kings, as their goaltending in this last little stretch hasn’t been up to par. Frederik Andersen wasn’t very good against the Flyers but still got a win, and was pretty porous against Columbus – though the Jackets were simply the better team all over the ice on that night. Jonas Hiller spit it against Minnesota and didn’t get much help in a loss to the Stars where he only gave up one goal.
Some of this may also be a form of market correction. Even when the Ducks were riding high, they led the league in games won when they gave up the first goal and trailed after the 1st period. Quite simply, as the games tighten up as the season goes on, you can’t keep falling behind and expect to pull your ass out of a sling every time. The Ducks rarely gave a full 60-minute effort even when they were winning 18 of 19, it was just those periods of play when they were on full give-a-shit were devastating. But it’s harder to keep digging for that extra gear in the middle of February, especially when your division is basically sewn up. You see what they’re capable of when fully focused for a game in the way they throttled the Kings at Dodger Stadium. You see what they’re also capable of when they’re just not there like against the Stars.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not awfully dangerous tonight, though the visit of the Hawks wasn’t enough to snap the Kings back into coherence like we feared. It might be for the Ducks. Plus, even with the win the last time these two met Anaheim has been quite the stomach flu for the Hawks the past couple years. With their only visit to the Honda Center, should be interesting to see how Bruce Boudreau deploys Getzlaf and Perry. At home Q was anxious to chase that line with Kruger’s, with mixed results. Same here? Will Boudreau embrace it and will Q chase it even when he doesn’t get to start with it? You can also easily picture the Ducks trying to emulate some of the rough-house tactics the Kings tried to no avail on Monday.
The Hawks cannot continue their penalty-happy ways tonight though that we saw in downtown L.A. The Ducks power play has been humming the past couple months, and giving them multiple looks is a recipe for utter disaster.
Anaheim will be without Nick Bonino tonight who really has been the driver of secondary scoring for them. This has forced Saku Koivu to take on more than he can handle, and he’s been showing every one of his 79 years lately. But Andrew Cogliano is still around, and when he’s around I basically live in fear, as strange as that may sound. The Ducks have also called up Emerson Etem, a player I still can’t really figure out why he hasn’t been up the whole time and can be a force on the 4th line (if he gets into any races with Bollig I’m going to spit up 50 beers).
There was no morning skate today so I’m assuming the lineup stays the same, unless Q wants to scratch Bickell again simply because he can. Crow’s been too good the past two games to not roll right into the break.
While the Hawks’ record against the Ducks lately won’t be put up in lights, it’s not like they’ve been blown out. All of these games have been ridiculously close and either settled by a late goal or shootout. No reason to expect any different tonight, other than wavering attention spans from either side. If the Hawks can take it in regulation they’ll only sit one point behind the Ducks for top overall spot, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, with the Blues dropping a point last night it’s a chance to extend out from them just a tiny bit. So let’s do that.