The last time we saw the Anaheim Ducks it was less than two weeks ago at the United Center, and it was one of the games we want to remember from this year. Okay, Duncan Keith getting his pocket picked in the deep slot and allowing a goal less than a minute after we had taken the early lead wasn’t highlight-reel material. But the Blackhawks shelled Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller with 43 shots, allowing only 26 against, and Viktor Stalberg gave Corey Crawford the win with a late-OT goal.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a nice send-off victory for the Circus Trip, as we now pay a visit to the Honda Center in Anaheim to see those same Ducks again. The Hawks are fresh off a loss in San Jose, where a stop-and-start effort ended in a 5 – 2 defeat, the salt in that wound being the name “Niemi” pasted across the jersey of the opposing goaltender. Hopefully the ‘Hawks get angry and hand it to the Ducks for some payback…
The Ducks come in to this game hovering at the .500 mark, just one point behind the Blackhawks in the Western Conference standings. Their offensive charge is helped by two old men, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, who are both lighting it up in their golden years. Corey Perry is on top of the scoring charts alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, but a surprisingly large majority of the Ducks find themselves with a plus-minus score south of zero. The significant exception to that rule being defenseman Toni Lydman — a noteworthy +12 in only 19 games.
Goaltending has been neither a problem nor a standout for the Ducks, with both Hiller and backup Curtis McElhinney hovering around a 2.80 GAA and 9.20 SVG. Nor has the team gotten a lot of help from the blueline, the exceptions being the afore-mentioned Lydman and Lubomir Visnovski with 3 goals and 15 assists.
On the Blackhawks’ roster it’s tough to find somebody who is living up to expectations. The million-dollar forwards are hot and cold; the best plus-minus among the defense is Brent Seabrook at a +2, and the frequency of bone-head passes in our own zone is now measured in seconds; and while the goaltenders are both doing the best they can, they can only do so much.
On the subject of defense, the last game could be used as a pretty strong argument that Nick Boynton should be handed his walking papers. He was directly responsible for two goals against in the tilt against San Jose, and this isn’t the first time. Yes, Mr. Boynton has a strong, accurate shot from the point. But we can find somebody who has just as strong and accurate of a shot who doesn’t make passes into the slot from behind the goal line — something most 12-year-old defensemen can manage to remember. I’m not necessarily a big fan of either Jordan Hendry or John Scott, but at this point any change is an improvement. At this point I’d give serious consideration to the 12-year-old.
Game time is 3:00pm Chicago time. WGN has the TV coverage, WGN AM-720 for broadcast radio, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 209.