March 12, 2017, 7:21 PM ET [1 Comments]
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… What Happened While I was Away for Spring Break
I'm just back from the family spring break vacation. As I was driving back, it occurred to me how much my life has changed. It seems like just yesterday, I was a college junior hanging out at Penrod's on Miami Beach. A stark contrast to a family trip in which we did things like go to the zoo. Two years ago, the Ducks were lighting up the Western Conference, now they are in a fight for second place in the Pacific Division with Calgary and Edmonton. Changing gears from self reflection, I have reviewed the hockey action from my absence and would like to share a few thoughts.
*Vancouver's win over the Ducks can be directly attributed to defenseman miscues. Vatanen on the first goal and Fowler on the second. When a team is not scoring, there is no room for error by the guys responsible for holding back the opponent. Additionally, the Ducks can make almost any goalie, such as Richard Bachman, look like an all-star. It was a game Anaheim had to win.
Beating Nashville in a shootout was costly for the Ducks who lost Nick Ritchie for two games due to injury. Who knew it would take Patrick Eaves to get Ryan Getzlaf going again? Who knew Eaves is a shootout weapon as well?
*If I were to tell you before hand that two of the Ducks most disappointing players this year, would be the heroes of a 1-0 win in Chicago, would you have believed me? Yes, its true, there was a Corey Perry sighting at the United Center.; he scored the contest's lone goal. Kudos to Jonathan Bernier on a 43 save shutout under tough conditions.
*The big story in St. Louis was the return of John Gibson (who stopped a penalty shot); however the epitaph of Thursdays loss comes from one of my favorite Vin Scully quotes; “Of all the words of mice and men,the saddest are 'It might have been.'” Beating the Blues would have given Anaheim three straight wins against conference playoff teams. As hard as they tried, the Ducks couldn't put away the pesky Blues.
A missed hip check by Hampus Lindholm on Robert Bortuzzo allowed the opposing defenseman to skate deep into the zone and make a stick to stick pass to his partner Joel Edmonson for the game winner with 20 seconds to go. I'm not sure which was more disappointing, Lindholm's missed hit on the NHL equivalent of an injured deer or Edmonson's sudden display of offensive prowess to beat Gibson high glove. As an aside, Gibson never looks great in his first start after a layoffs, he usually needs a game under his belt to find his rhythm.
Washington @ Ducks
The dangerous Washington Capitals are tonight's opponent. Ovechkin, Backman, Kuznetsov, et alplay the latter half of back-to-back games at the Honda Center. In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to commemorate the Ducks Stanley Cup 10th Anniversary. Normally such events aren't scheduled against the best team in the league. Then again the Caps have been very average since their bye week, they might be ripe for a beatdown.
Ritchie is back in the lineup after missing the past two skirmishes. In addition, Antoine Vermette returns from his 10-game, league imposed exile. It marks the first time in over a month that the Ducks will have their full compliment of forwards. Rickard Rakell switches from third line center to top line left wing. Vermette back-fills Rakell's slot pivoting a line with Ritchie and Perry. If there is a good point of the season for a team to get healthy, this is a good one. Here is the expected lineup: