Game Preview #46 – Duck Season Is Fast Approaching

Looks like Kesler and Henrik are lining up for one of them there Hockey Hugs.
(Photo by Jessica Haydahl/NHLI via Getty Images)

Game Day Recon: Game #46 – Ducks @ Canucks

It’s not just one thing that has gone wrong in Anaheim this season. It’s a combination of everything. Poor goaltending, poor defence, and poor offence has led to a REALLY poor season. And we’ve only just hit the midway point of the season.

With the fire sale imminent (if you believe those in the know), because of a lack of production from the team’s biggest stars and highest paid players, you have to wonder just who will be playing for this team by the end of the year. And… will any of them be wearing Canucks colours in short order?

Broadcast Info

Game Time: 6:00 PM PT

TV: RSN-PAC Radio: Team1040

The Setup

The first big problem in Anaheim right now is a lack of goal scoring. Their top point getter is 41-year-old Teemu Selanne. That’s great for Teemu, but it’s bad for your team when your top producer is 41 years old. They have only 3 players who have notched over 10 goals (compared to Vancouver’s 7). Ryan Getzlaf has a mere 7 goals, only 4 of which are even-strength. Just to put this into perspective on the Ducks roster, Andrew Cogliano has 8 goals. Nicklas Hagman has 6 goals. Yeah. It’s NOT been a good season for Getzlaf, sparking a ton of trade rumours involving his name. At 25th in the league in total goals scored (21st in GF/g), it’s hardly Getzlaf’s problem alone, but he’s a big part of it.

The next big problem is goals against. Ranked 25th in total goals against and GA/g, Anaheim is having a ton of trouble keeping the puck out of their own net. Usually, when you are having trouble scoring, you compensate by playing better team defence and winning games 2-1 or 1-0. Not the case in Anaheim, which has led to them sitting 14th in the West. The Ducks #1 goalie, Jonas Hiller, is having his worst season in the NHL by a long shot. At 11-17-7, a 2.98 GAA and a .902 Sv%, Hiller is struggling mightily this year. Granted his defence is giving him much help, and his team isn’t scoring their way out of defensive problems either. That said, back-up Dan Ellis (1-5-0; 2.72 GAA; .911 Sv%) is statistically having a better year than Hiller. Amongst goalies who have played over 1,500 minutes so far this year, Hiller has the worst save percentage and is 21st out of 24 goalies in GAA.

It’s troubling times down in Anaheim, on both sides of the puck. Vancouver is in a position to make this a quick game tonight. The Canucks squeaked out two straight wins and three wins out of four games on their recent road trip. If the Canucks are looking to prove that they can earn a victory, as opposed to simply getting good luck and better goaltending, a thrashing at the hands of the Ducks would serve them well. The Ducks are reeling and the Canucks have VERY few games over the next 2.5 weeks.The need to capture these points now, to keep as much of their lead as possible at the top of their division and their conference. They can’t make up points when they’re not playing and over the next 3 weeks, they’re just not playing very much. And they need only to look back at last year to know that the Ducks like playing in Vancouver. Last year, the Ducks took 3 of 4 points out of Vancouver and have played some exciting, goofy hockey along the way.

The Ducks have long given the Canucks trouble. And recently, the Ducks have found a bit of a spark. They’ve won 4 of their last 5 games and scored at least 4 goals in each of their four victories. Granted three of their four wins came at the hands of some real cupcakes (they beat NYI, CBJ, DAL, EDM and lost 1-0 to CGY), but they scored goals and got back in the win column. And as we know, getting the win and getting on track is most important. It’s doesn’t matter who you beat.

Game Notes

David Booth will return to the lineup tonight after missing over 4 weeks to injury. It looks like Keith Ballard will slot back in, while Andrew Alberts will take a seat in the press box in his place. Sami Salo (concussion) and Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) remain out of the lineup. Dan Ellis is out as back-up goalie, so Jeff Deslauriers will back up Jonas Hiller.

The Three Keys

Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:

  1. Get the lead going into the first intermission. The Ducks are 0-13-1 when trailing after the first period. But it may be even easier than that for the Canucks. The Ducks are 1-16-3 when they give up the first goal. So if the Canucks can simply score first, the Ducks are not a team that comes back to win games. Their 0.050 winning percentage when trailing first is the worst in the league, as is their single victory. Now… after hopefully scoring first, which they should do (because the Canucks have scored first in 31 of 45 games), they need to…
  2. Step on the gas as the game goes along. Statistically, the Ducks defence gets worse as the game goes along. But their offence remains steady. The Ducks have scored 36 goals each in all three periods, but they have given up 35, then 47, then 47 goals in the first, second and third periods respectively.
  3. Get your power play doing its job. The Ducks have a very PK, ranked 8th in the league, which is astounding given their defensive and goaltending woes. However, they take a ton of penalties, and tonight should be no different. And don’t expect the Ducks to play with the man advantage too often. They rank 26th in total PP time on the road as well as road PP opportunities. Despite that, the Ducks ranked 13th in PP%, so what limited chances they get, they do take advantage. Strong on the PK, strong on the PP. The even-strength play should be a huge advantage for the Cauncks anyway. The Ducks are -19 in GF vs GA at even-strength, while the Canucks are +15.

The Links

Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:

  1. Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
  2. Canucks’ Ballard tested in bench role (The Province)
  3. Booth’s back as Canucks return home to face the Anaheim Ducks (Vancouver Sun)
  4. Canucks try to stay hot as they face the improving Ducks (TSN)
  5. Ducks/Canucks Preview (CBC Sports)