RECORDS: Ducks 34-22-10 Hawks 42-18-5
PUCK DROP: 7:30 pm Central
GOT A RIDE AND A REASON TO IGNORE YOU: Anaheim Calling, Also Jen Neale of Puck Daddy tweets about the Ducks a lot @MsJenNeale_PD but she’s a gross girl who eats her own boogers and possibly worms so don’t talk to her
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Ducks – 50.2 (18th) Hawks – 51.2 (9th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Ducks – 52.2 (7th) Hawks – 49.1 (18th)
POWER PLAY %: Ducks – 19.0 (16th) Hawks – 19.4 (15th)
PENALTY KILL %: Ducks – 84.8 (6th) Hawks – 76.9 (27th)
It came a little later than usual, thanks to injuries, but the Hawks are going to have their usual “New Toy Night” tonight after the trade deadline, as Johnny Oduya will bring that life-affirming beard back out onto the UC ice tonight, opposite his muse of yore (if two seasons ago can be considered “yore.” I’m not too clear on what the qualifications on “yore” are) Niklas Hjalmarsson who will also return from tonight.
We’ll start with the Hawks. The return of Ebenholts och Elfenben allows Joel Quenneville to try the model he’s probably wanted to ever since Oduya left, which is getting Duncan Keith away from the toughest assignments and allow him to bum-slay as he did from 2013-2015. We will see if Oduya is still up to the task of guarding Helm’s Deep from the scariest Orcs that there are. We know that Hammer is. In reality, the Hawks aren’t going to ask that pairing to consistently turn over the ice against the top lines of the opponents, but merely to keep the roof from caving in around their ears. Tonight is a good enough challenge in that without being the hardest you could find in Getzlaf between Rakell and Eaves.
The other twist of fate, or simple twist, is that Marian Hossa and Jordin Tootoo have swapped line because TOOTBLAN somehow put one decent game together, or at least that’s what Fifth Feather said on Saturday night but he drinks a lot and has other strange appetites so I wouldn’t put too much stock into anything he claims. What exactly this new set-up does is anyone’s guess because you don’t want Tootoo taking the suicide shifts that Kruger gets, and I’m guessing this will last a period at most.
Right, to the Ducks. Did you remember they existed? No, you probably didn’t. They’re having something of a nothing season. The Pacific Division is so bad that they can’t possibly sink out of sight or even the playoff picture, but they’re not anywhere near the top of the standings either, though they did come up to periscope depth there for a hot minute in January and February.
You’re used to the Ducks finishing first, as they had done for four consecutive seasons before this one under Gabby Gabby Hey Hey. Replacing him with Randy “Fat Man With His Kids And Dog Came Here Through The Morning Fog” Carlyle, along with some aging in a lot of spots, have taken the sheen off the Ducks. Getzlaf is still doing a mean Joe Thornton impression, if Thornton thought Alter-Bridge was the height of musical talent and was totally float-y on the ice. Being robbed of Corey Perry on his wing hasn’t stopped his point totals, though it has probably forced him to find someone else to eat his shit on a daily basis.
While the hockey world rightly mocked Ryan Kesler’s contract extension that will take him to the end of the world (we hope, with the way things are going), the second line of Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg has actually been dynamic and effective all season. Surrounding Kesler with speed is the only way as he can barely move these days, and “Cogliano” remains the best NHL name to say in NBA Jam voice. When Antoine Vermette isn’t in hockey jail, the third line of Ritchie-Vermette-Perry is one of the better third units around. After that things really fall apart and you’ll barely see Carlyle use his fourth line.
This defense should be better too, with HAMPUS! HAMPUS!, Fowler, and Vatanen all nifty puck-movers. Or at least that’s what they’ve been advertised as, Fowler has never quite delivered. Then again, he’s having to constantly pick up whatever piece falls off of Kevin “GWAR’s mouth on ice” Bieksa, and that’s usually his brain out of his ear. If only Simon Despres wasn’t made out of gum and sawdust.
I have this sinking feeling that the Ducks could make something of a run in the playoffs simply due to randomness. John Gibson, though he won’t play tonight, has show some flashes of being able to win a series, and if the Ducks don’t get passed by the Flames they’ll get to see the neophyte and greatly flawed Oilers in the first round. Though the hockey world wants Oilers-Flames in the first round, so it would just be like the Ducks to ruin everyone’s good fun.
With Oduya in the building there should be something of a charge in the UC tonight, and the Hawks having had four days off there should be one in their legs as well. They had better, because they don’t get more than one day off between games the rest of the way, though this will be the first half of the last back-to-back of the season.
It’s time to kick this pig, we’re on the road to the playoffs.