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Before the Puck Drops: Anaheim

By Tom

GAME 11

 

ANAHEIM DUCKS

8-3-0

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT OUR OPPONENT

Bruce Boudreau was scapegoated in Washington, and he chose Anaheim as the place to exact his revenge on the NHL.

All the former head coach of the Washington Capitals did was take a team with one ridiculous superstar who regularly takes shifts off and only plays defense under duress and turn them into a perennial playoff team in every one of his four full seasons in our nation’s capital city.  But Alexander Ovechkin apparently didn’t like the star of the 24/7 Winter Classic from a couple of years ago (the link is to a clip that IS safe for work, nothing like his four-color locker room speeches), so Bruce and his fast-paced, free-wheeling scheme got kicked to the curb (and Ovi was forced to play defense by interim replacement Dale Hunter, who apparently loathed the experience so much that he walked away from the Capitals after salvaging the season and taking the Rangers to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals).

It took all of two days for Boudreau to land in Anaheim. In his first full season, the lockout-truncated 2013 season, he took the Ducks to the Western Conference quarterfinals.  Anaheim’s currently sitting in fourth in the West with 16 points.

What I find most fascinating about this whole story is not that Boudreau is a good coach.  We knew that.  It’s not that Ovechkin is a prima donna.  We knew that, too.  No, what I find most fascinating is that Boudreau has quietly transformed one of the most physical (some would say thuggish) teams in the National Hockey League into a West Coast version of his idealized Capitals scheme.  To see what I mean, check out the transformation in goals scored:

- 2011-12: 23rd in the NHL

- 2013: 8th in the NHL

- 2013-14 (to date): 8th in the NHL

I used to loathe Anaheim games, especially the ones at Nationwide Arena.  When the Jackets would get up a goal, the gloves would drop, drop and drop again….and it wasn’t starting with the Jackets  I remember the downright embarrassment of having my impressionable young nephew next to me as the Ducks went headhunting all over the ice.  The kid just wanted to watch hockey being played, and Anaheim literally wasn’t letting the game go on.  Scoring was an afterthought.  It was like that more often than not for as long as I have been following the Jackets.

Anyway, all that’s changed.  The “truculence” largely is gone, and the Ducks now play a faster, looser style that I find much more fun to watch.

The Ducks are anchored by all-star forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (11 points each on the season), Matthew Perreault (9 points) and the ageless wonder, Teemu Selanne (6 points).  In goal, starter Jonas Hiller is sporting only a .911 save percentage.  The Ducks suggest that Frederik Anderson – about whom I literally know nothing beyond his gaudy .980 save percentage stat line in two games played – will get the start today, though.

THE REAL IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW

The whole “Western Conference is better than the Eastern Conference” thing that we in Columbus have been harping on forever appears to be true once again.  As of October 18, the West teams have a combined 31-11-4 record against East teams.  That’s brutal.

So when the Ducks are sporting an 8-3-0 record while playing in the West, that means something.  This is a good team.

WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING

The Ducks are 8th in the league in Goals For and 9th in Goals Against.  The Jackets are 7th in Goals Against, so that suggests the battle will be joined when the Ducks are on the attack.

I’m more concerned about when the Blue Jackets, who are 19th in the league in Goals For, have the puck.  The Ducks apparently have a stout defensive corps despite Hiller’s less-than-stellar save percentage.

That’s not to say that the Blue Jackets can’t score goals.  It was a joy to watch the Blue Jackets destroy the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night with their unbelievable four-goal third period, and the Leafs still are 8th in the league in Goals Against after getting obliterated by Columbus.  So the Jackets CAN score goals (and lots of them) against supposedly strong defenses, but that’s why they play the game.  The team has to prove itself once again out on the ice as it pulls itself back into playoff contention (the CBJ are in 9th in the East right now).  The goals have to keep coming.

If we get the team that shellacked the Leafs on Friday, we’ll have a fun time on our hands.

YOUR FOX SPORTS OHIO BROADCAST INFORMATION

It’s Sunday, so we have a 6PM start.  That means:

- ”Blue Jackets Slap Shots” at 5:00

- “Blue Jackets Live” with Brian Giesenschlag and Dan Kamal starts at 5:30PM

- The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs drop the puck at Nationwide Arena at 6PM with Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge have the call.

- “Blue Jackets Live Postgame” with Brian and Dan, tying things up with a bow.

Have fun tonight!  Big game!

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