Judging a team by its first three games is incredibly hasty in an 82-game season, but the Anaheim Ducks are making it pretty difficult to refrain from “fire and brimstone” talk. They haven’t just gone 0-3, they’ve been absolutely decimated.
Most people assumed that their defense would be a weakness thanks to the retirement of Scott Niedermayer and departure of other pieces over the years, and that’s exactly right. The Ducks allowed a disturbing 13 goals in three games so far, more than 4 goals per game. You cannot lay the blame solely at goalie Jonas Hiller’s feet or point to bad luck, either. When your team allows more than twice as many shots (145) as they produce (72) and that total is just a sniff under 50 shots per game, your defense is putrid.
It’s not as if these contests have been a shooting gallery, either, as the Ducks offense is as impotent as their defense is clueless. Despite dressing talented forwards such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, Anaheim only scored two goals so far this season (both by Koivu).
No doubt about it, Anaheim’s opening performances have been downright abysmal. The question is, will they right the ship? There are a few reasons why they might but justifiable cause to wonder if this might be a nightmare season. Let’s take a quick glance at both sides of the argument.
Why things could get better
- The Ducks are slow starters: As Earl Sleek points out in a Battle of California post that gave reasons to be positive while pointing out how bad the first two games were, Anaheim is a team that takes a while to wake up in the regular season. Sleek wrote that the Ducks made the playoffs twice in the three times the franchise started a season 0-3.
- The Ducks have talent: While they missed the playoffs last year, they still have some of the best forwards in the NHL and a talented goalie in Hiller. They’re not quite as hopeless as some of the NHL’s worst from 09-10 from a talent standpoint.
Why things might not get better
- Their defense is brutal: Even at 100 percent health, the Ducks blue line is a stark contrast from the group that helped them bully their way to a Stanley Cup. When Lubomir Visnovsky is probably your best defenseman, you better score a lot of goals.
- The Curse of Chris Pronger: The Blues still aren’t regular fixtures in the playoffs since Pronger left while the Oilers continue to pick up the pieces. Oddly enough, it’s hard to replace a guy who menaces the competition into timid play for nearly half of a game.
If you ask me, the Ducks will get a bit better (you can only lose by 3-4 goals so many times, right?) but will need a drastic change to make the playoffs. Let’s just say that coach Randy Carlyle might want to update his resume if things don’t improve soon.
Here’s hoping that you didn’t take a poorly-timed break in the second period.
For much of Game 7, the Ottawa Senators have been able to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, resulting in a contest that went scoreless for what sometimes felt like ages.
Chris Kunitz changed that, long after missing on a golden opportunity shortly after Mike Sullivan decided to put him on Sidney Crosby‘s line. Kunitz finished a nice rush play to make it 1-0 9:55 into the second. Check out that goal below.
Guy Boucher didn’t have to deploy “attack mode” very long, as Mark Stone stunningly tied it up 1-1 just 20 seconds later. That surprising tally can be seen in the clip above this post’s headline.
We finally know the lineups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Pittsburgh’s tweaks are most interesting, which isn’t a huge surprising considering the consistent inconsistency bred by their injury issues.
The Penguins will get Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz back in the mix. Despite showing a lot of energy warming up, Patric Hornqvist isn’t good to go. Here are the full Penguins personnel notes; also realize that this is Matt Murray‘s birthday.
Ottawa places Chris Kelly back in, getting the nod over Tommy Wingels and Colin White. Kelly’s had some experience in these scenarios.
You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.
The Buffalo Sabres announced the signing of defenseman Victor Antipin* on Thursday, confirming rumors that surfaced more than once this month.
Antipin, 24, enjoyed a solid season in the KHL with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Even so, the signing might be interesting if it serves as an appetizer for the Sabres bringing in Antipin’s teammate from Metallurg, Chris Lee.
On one hand, Lee is 36 and couldn’t make the jump fromt he AHL to the NHL in previous opportunities (most reently with the Penguins’ farm system in 2009-10). On the other, he had an eye-popping 2016-17 season in the KHL: 65 points in 60 games as a defenseman.
Lee’s previous numbers aren’t as outrageous, but still quite good, at least form a scoring standpoint.
While Lee’s possible addition is a situation to watch, there’s some excitement about Antipin.
“Victor is a well-rounded defenseman who has played in all situations at the pro level,” Sabres GM Jason Botterill said. “His mobility and puck-moving skills make him a perfect match for what we’re hoping to build with our defense corps next season.”
Granted, there’s some debate about his ceiling.
Still, for a Sabres team that badly needs help on the blueline, this addition – or eventually these additions – could provide a nice boost.
* – The Sabres’ releases feature his name spelled “Victor.” Other outlets, including hockeydb, have it as “Viktor.”
Will it be the Ottawa Senators or Pittsburgh Penguins against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final? We’ll find out after tonight.
Yes, it’s that time: a Game 7 to see who advances to the final round. The winner will also hold home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final.
Could Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, and the rest of the Senators pull off an upset on the road, winning the franchise’s first Game 7? Can Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins give Matt Murray a birthday present with another Game 7 win?
Find out on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.
Here’s what you need to know:
Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (series tied 3-3)
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream live here)
Check out the highlights from Ottawa’s 2-1 win in Game 6
—Pretty or not, Sens aim to play their game vs. Pens in Game 7
—Penguins prepare for another Game 7, this time as favorites
—Modern-day Senators have never won a Game 7
—It’s “reasonable” to expect Schultz and Hornqvist will play Game 7