Chicago Blackhawks’ Eye on the Enemy: Anaheim Ducks
The Chicago Blackhawks head to southern California for a Black Friday battle with the Anaheim Ducks
In what’s become an annual tradition, the Chicago Blackhawks invade the Honda Center on Black Friday for a 3 p..m matchup against the Anaheim Ducks. Reeling from consecutive losses at Edmonton and San Jose, the Blackhawks will be looking to knock off the Ducks before ending their seven-game road trip at the Kings on Saturday.
For their part, the Ducks have to regroup after a bitterly disappointing 14-round shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night that turned on a controversial goal by the Islanders’ Thomas Hickey in the 12th round.
This week’s Eye on the Enemy will take a look at the Anaheim Ducks, who are fighting for the top of the Pacific Division with a record of 9-7-4.
Deja vu in Anaheim
Dismissing head coach Bruce Boudreau after last year’s first-round exit from the playoffs, Ducks general manager Bob Murray brought back the winningest coach in franchise history, Randy Carlyle, for another run at the Stanley Cup, which he won with the team in 2007.
Management and fans alike are hopeful that Carlyle can conjure a magical encore and grab one more Cup with his talented group of players.
Murray also signed free agent Antoine Vermette, who ‘Hawks fans will remember for his short but brilliant stint with the Blackhawks during their 2015 Stanley Cup run.
The Ducks still present a triple threat of power, skill and grit up front with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry. All three are 31 years old, but as a group they can still tilt the ice, combining for 46 points this season.
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Forward Jakob Silfverberg has caught fire with two game-winners among his six goals and 13 points. Defenseman Cam Fowler also has 13 points, and now ranks third on the Ducks’ all-time list of most powerplay goals by a defenseman.
As a team, the Ducks lead the NHL in winning faceoffs, and Kesler ranks second only to Jonathan Toews, winning 59.9 percent of his draws.
Beyond the offense
With Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm now signed to multi-year contracts, the Ducks feature a deep and experienced blue line.
Fowler ranks among the team leaders in points while Kevin Bieksa injects heavy-hitting intimidation. With Vatanen day-to-day with the flu, look for talented youngster Shea Theodore to get some heavy playing time against the ‘Hawks.
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After a series of summer trades, John Gibson moved up to starting goaltender, and Jonathan Bernier came over from Toronto as backup.
With a record of 6-6-3, Gibson has only been average and hampered recently fighting a flu bug. Bernier has been stellar with a .935 save percentage and 2.02 goals-against average, both of which rank second in the Western Conference for all goalies with at least eight appearances. Bernier had won three straight before the marathon shootout loss Tuesday night.
Having failed mind reading in college, I can’t predict who’ll get the start in goal against the ‘Hawks, but Bernier appears to have the hot glove right now.
Both the powerplay and the penalty killing units rank among the top five in the Western Conference and are trending steadily along their season’s averages. The Ducks’ powerplay unit is especially potent, so the ‘Hawks would do well to stay out of the penalty box.
Like the Blackhawks, the Ducks have been victimized by some slow starts this season. The team that grabs the early lead Friday will likely be the victor and come away with two points.
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