Anaheim Calling is the Ducks SB Nation Blog, and a good one. Kid Ish got together with me to answer five questions in reference to the matchup tonight. What's going on in California hockey?
Kevin Kraczkowski (Matchsticks and Gasoline): Anaheim is on pace to earn a franchise record in points, eclipsing even the Ducks Stanley Cup Champions in 2007, who tallied 110. What do you think the chances are that they eventually win the President’s Trophy this season? What would that mean to the team?
Kid Ish (Anaheim Calling): The franchise itself would love any reason to hang more evidence of success from the rafters--in only 20 years, the team has enjoyed a fair amount. But Southern California is a sports saturated market, and success helps sell the product overall. Hockey has grown immensely in the region through efforts of both the Ducks and Kings. In fact, there was a player for Detroit who figured to play against Columbus the other night who would be the 30th Californian to play an NHL game--pretty good considering the sport really only gained momentum here post-1988. So having more success--a President's Trophy or a division banner--is no different.
But the team itself is probably more focused on winning the Pacific and avoiding the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. It seems inevitable the two clubs will meet though, and that series will be sensational.
KK: How have the Ducks covered down since they lost number one defenseman Cam Fowler last week - and will he return in time to help Anaheim push for another Cup?
KI: Losing Fowler has been rough on our other pairings. He's quietly become such a good defender after a few years of struggles that his absence is definitely forcing Boudreau to get creative. Gabby wanted to sit rookie Hampus Lindholm a few games with Stephane Robidas joining the roster but instead has paired him with Ben Lovejoy (Cam's normal partner) and shuffled everyone else around. Word around the team is that Fowler figures to get a few games in before the postseason, barring setback.
KK: A cursory glance at the statistics page over on www.hockey-reference.com reveals the Ducks biggest weakness - special teams. Do the numbers lie or is there a legitimate concern?
KI: Special teams are a sore subject around our fanbase, hah. The PK has struggled more of late as Boudreau has tried to lessen the minutes of his big guys, who were playing in all situations earlier in the year to better success. There's no reason to put Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry out there for a minute at this stage in the season, after all. But not playing them has produced some dicey results.
The PP struggles are probably a result of a couple things. First, he team hasn't been shooting as much with the advantage. A lot of this stems from lacking a really strong point presence, as opposing PKs don't close lanes to challenge the shot, which forces guys to create lanes in isolation on the half-boards or down low. Second, Boudreau has tried to keep Selanne in a prime position to get easy points from his usual low left position, but his wrists are just not what they used to be. As such, PKs have let him more or less alone and have shut down Getzlaf and Perry. Boudreau has very recently thrown some Selanne-less units out to massive success--look for Patrick Maroon and Matheiu Perreault to get some PP time, and when that happens, look out.
KK: I’ve taken Jonas Hiller for granted as the Ducks number one goaltender - but Frederick Andersen has a higher save percentage (.924 to .914) and a lower GAA (2.26 to 2.39). Is there a new sheriff in town?
KI: The rise in Frederik Andersen's play when Viktor Fasth went down changed how Anaheim approached the position for the season. The original plan was probably going to see Jonas Hiller shipped out (since he's an impending UFA) for Fasth and Andersen or a rental backup to cover the position until American hero John Gibson is ready for the position either next year or thereafter. That's why Fasth was signed to the deal he was last year. Andersen's play has been stellar and somewhat of a surprise, I'd wager. Now the team will ride out Hiller's deal as an "own rental" and let he and Andersen determine who goes when the playoffs start. Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if Andersen and Gibson are the duo the team goes with.
KK: Is there any possibility that Teemu Selanne will return next season? Is this really his last hurrah?
KI: Teemu Selanne is definitely calling it quits this year. He recently opened up a restaurant in the area that the Ducks have begun hosting select events at, a trend I suspect will continue. Additionally, during the NHL Revealed NBC Sports program that accompanied the Stadium Series and Olympics games, he mentioned that he's ready to finally put the life behind him and begin working for Anaheim in whatever capacity they work out. So he'll definitely be around the game, but his playing days are behind him after this season.
We'd like to thank Kid Ish for his time and his insight into the Ducks. Tune in later for the game preview, a live gametime thread, and a second to none recap. Check out Anaheim Calling for more on the Ducks, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.