Brief respite from brutal schedule
By Brian Hayward
FOX Sports West AND PRIME TICKET
November 23, 2010
The slimmest of silver linings existed after Sunday's disappointing loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Honda Center and that is that the team would not play their next game until Friday, meaning that for the first time this season, the Ducks would have four days between games to rest and recover from what has been the most difficult schedule any team in the Western Conference has had to endure.
While it is true that the schedule playing field is expected to level over the course of the season, my vote would be to immediately remove the NHL schedule-maker from the Ducks Christmas Card List.
Put plainly, the Ducks schedule to open the 2010-11 season has been brutal. They have had just one three-day break without games scheduled since they opened Oct 8 (Oct 31, Nov 1, Nov 2). I don't think it's a coincidence that after this break, the Ducks won six consecutive games and got themselves back in the thick of things in the Western Conference. They have also had three instances of having two days off between games, but each time the days off' included travel either to or from Orange County.
The Ducks have played 23 games this season and four Western Conference teams had played five fewer games and six other Western conference teams had played four fewer games than Anaheim. Contrast the schedule of the Ducks with Conference-leading Detroit. The Red Wings have played five fewer games, have had two four-day breaks, two three-day breaks and have played only one set of back-back games so far, while the Ducks have played five sets of back-backs.
The Duck players will try and enjoy this Thanksgiving break knowing that they have not won in their past five games and you cannot blame the effort. This team is completely drained both physically and emotionally and unfortunately lacked the mental fortitude to overcome these realities against the Oilers on Sunday. The hockey operations staff will also have an unsettled holiday. As they load their plates with stuffing and survey the pumpkin pie, the Ducks coaches and managers will also wrack their brains trying to find solutions to two problematic scoring issues: how to find goal scoring from depth forwards and how to generate more goal scoring from a suddenly healthy Anaheim blueline.
It has been eight games since a Duck defenseman has scored a goal.
For the entire season thus far, only three total goals have been scored by a non top-six forward (one each by George Parros, Kyle Palmieri, and Ryan Carter). While there have been times that the Ducks top six forwards have been more than dangerous enough, and their goaltending more than stout enough to produce consistent wins, it is an awful lot to ask that these players carry the team night after night. Or is it?
Perhaps all they really need is a little rest now and then.