Who: Anaheim Ducks
When: Tonight, 9:30PM EST
The Dangermen: There are more than a few of these folks. The big ones remain: former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry on the wing and Ryan Getzlaf in the middle. Perry and Getzlaf remain the cornerstones of this franchise and rightly so – they lead the team both offensively and with those little letter thingies on their jerseys.
Perry is a sniper with a bit of a penchant towards being a dirty player of late. He is someone to be aware of at all times and not just because he may blind-side you into oblivion. He scores goals and he scores a lot of ‘em.
Getzlaf is your big, playmaking centerman. When people aren’t making fun of his hairline, they are usually marveling at all the goals he sets up. He rebounded from a poor 2011-12 season nicely last year and will look to combine with Perry more times than is healthy. They are both to be feared.
There is also the ageless Teemu Selanne. He may or may not be a wizard; we’re looking into it. The 43-year-old winger continues to not only show up but actually be somewhat effective. He had a dozen goals last year and is still a threat to crack 30 despite being so old that he could explode into dust. Nah, not really, but he is ancient in sports terms.
But it doesn’t end there, oh no. The team has a slew of young talent despite the trade of dynamic young power-forward Bobby Ryan. Jacob Silfverberg, the centerpiece of that deal, Nick Bonino, and Emerson Etem lead a strong young core of up-and-coming forwards that are continuing to find their game. There’s also Kyle Palmieri, who had 10 goals last year during the shortened season. If he can keep on that 20-goal pace, this will be a team to be feared, though you will still say “quack, quack, quack, Mr.Ducksworth” from time to time because obviously.
The Defenders: Turns out they also have some people who are good at hockey here as well! Francois Beauchemin looked like an early Norris candidate last year and ended it with a solid 24 points and +22 rating until injuries slowed him down.
Joining him in the “pretty good at hockey” category” is the young Cam Fowler, who is rounding into form as a complete defenseman and could even be competing for an Olympic berth. If you’re up for a spot on Team Canada, there’s a pretty decent shot you’re good. Incredibly astute hockey observation says: Cam Fowler is good at hockey.
After that, it gets dicey. Luca Sbisa is back but I’m not sure that’s a good thing to most Duck fans. He was pretty bad last year until late and he’ll have to be more towards “not bad” than “dear Jebas, get him off the ice.” Bryan Allen is also in the disappointing column, as is Sheldon Souray. Souray is there not because he’s bad but because he’s made of very fragile glass that a slight breeze could shatter. He’s out 2-3 months with a torn ligament in his wrist, which is a shame for the Ducks because he was one of their best offensive defensemen. But again: this isn’t new for Souray.
Puck Stoppers Inc.: The Ducks are actually pretty stacked in this regard. Incumbent starter Jonas Hiller won 15 games last year and is paid to be the #1 guy regardless of what happens, though it’s looking more and more like he could be supplanted.
Should he falter, there is also Viktor Fasth. Fasth won 15 games last year as well and started the season like a house of fire, looking unbeatable in the early going as the Ducks kept pace with the eventual President’s Trophy-winning Blackhawks. He also turned in the better GAA and save percentage of the two during the regular season. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out or if coach Bruce Boudreau continues to roll them both out as a dominant platoon.
And should THEY falter, there’s prized prospect John Gibson behind them. Who’s he? Only one of the top goaltending prospects in the game, that’s all. He led the United States to a surprise bronze medal in the World Championships and also got an Olympic camp invite. The Ducks have guys who can stop the puck coming out of every orifice.
How the Avs match up: The Avs will need to use their youth and speed to take a shot at the limited defensive depth of the Ducks. From a fire power standpoint, the Avs aren’t quite there yet and they certainly don’t have equal goaltending.
A real key will be getting the Ducks into the box. Last year, they were pretty bad on the penalty-kill, especially to start the season, so the Avs could use that to their advantage. Speed and effort draw penalties; the Avs should have both in abundance.
Defensively, they need to keep the Ducks forwards to the perimeter and give Semyon Varlamov a chance to see everything. Keep him clean in front of the net and don’t let Perry/Getzlaf/whoever get to the middle of the ice.
Cower in fear if: The Avs forwards can’t get much pressure on Hiller and aren’t able to get push on the thin Duck defense.
Perry and Getzlaf roam unchecked, doing as they please around the Avalanche net.
The Ducks stay out of the box.
Laugh maniacally if: Varlamov plays his nards off.
Duchene and co. use their speed to get push and make things happen in front of the net.
Power plays for everyone!
Silly predictions: The Avs speed will test the Ducks early but they’ll adjust and Hiller will shut the door; O’Reilly-Dutchy-Downie wreak havoc for most of the game, keeping the Ducks running around and generating a ton of chances; Nathan MacKinnon gets under 10 minutes of ice-time as The Coddling begins.
Final: 4-2 Ducks
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