This weekend the Ducks played another weekend back to back, this time with the high roller Golden Knights, and then the Sabers on a sentimental night back in Anaheim. Let’s just say that this weekend did not go well and really highlighted some things that are wrong with the Ducks style of Hockey.
Now, I was in Vegas this Saturday for the game (which I will touch on in detail later) and was able to witness one of the most painful displays of hockey in quite some time by the Ducks. It may have not looked like it by the 3-1 (2-1 with empty net) score but the Ducks never really had a chance in that game. The reason for the close score is because Anaheim is blessed with a god among men in between the pipes who is able to keep even our worst games within a shot. We don’t deserve John Gibson, he like usual was incredible and did everything he could despite the onslaught of shots he was facing.
Right now the Ducks seem as if they are expecting to win hockey games while using an outdated system. It’s like trying to stream a high resolution movie on a computer that has Windows 95, it’s just not going to work. The way that Anaheim is playing right now can be summed up as this, getting the puck behind their net, getting to their own blue line, hammering it into the zone while looking for a tip to negate the icing, then chase it into the zone and try to win a battle deep for the puck. That used to work, and the Ducks used to be good at it. Now, not so much. In today’s game, while we play faster, younger teams, we see exactly what we saw this weekend. The opposing team will anticipate the dump in, the goalie will stop it behind the net and as the Ducks slowly get the wheels moving to come down ice the opposing team already has full momentum headed back into Anaheim D-zone. They fly past the slower, bigger players of Anaheim and then have created an odd man rush or high percentage scoring chance going the other way.
We saw this happen in Vegas, with the Ducks only getting 3 shots in the first period, 6 shots in the second period, and finally 9 in the third. That’s certainly not great, but much worse when you see that Vegas had 15 shots in the first, 13 in the second, and 17 in the third! We were out-shot 18 to 45 on Saturday night. That is unacceptable and if we had even an average too slightly above average goalie we would be losing these games by 6 or more goal margins.
After that debacle, you would think that the Ducks would be ready to make adjustments and tighten things up in a bounce back effort the next night. I will admit, that the Ducks came out looking much better vs Buffalo and getting out to a 2 goal lead. Then, in a classic Carlyle lead Ducks fashion, they reverted back to their old ways and giving up 3 unanswered goals (plus the EN) to take another regulation loss. The shot break down in this one you ask? 14-8 Buffalo in the first, 17-10 Buffalo in the second, and 14-10 Buffalo in the third for a final SOG of 45-28 Buffalo. This time, it was Miller doing everything he could to keep us in it.
It may not be as clear because of the outstanding goal-tending we get from John Gibson and Ryan Miller, but we are not going to win many hockey games giving up 45 shots on goal. We cannot enter a zone with the puck, every time we have possession the puck is either given up, sent down the boards, or just fanned on. This weekend showed that the classic Carlyle system of dump and chase is no longer effective in today’s NHL. The Ducks are far too dependent on their goal-tending who is the only bright light in a pretty dim weekend.
Bonus Vegas Hockey Experience Review:
As I said before, I made the trip out to Sin City for the Ducks game on Saturday. I have heard all the hype around the Golden Knights and wanted to see for myself.
Let me say this, the hype is real. The atmosphere around Vegas for this team is very real. You walk through the casinos and not only are 1 in 3 people wearing something VGK related, but so are the dealers and employees. I am not talking about a cheap hat, but authentic jerseys. This is not even just on game day, it is all the time. Every single casino gift shop is half full of VGK gear, the signs are all over the place, Krispy Kreme had VGK donuts, I mean you couldn’t go more than 10 feet without seeing something Knights related.
As for game day, the experience and vibe around the arena was unreal. Outside of T-Mobile Arena there is a kind of a mini strip that goes down to the actual one, with restaurants, bars, games and everything else. With it being Vegas you can literally turn anywhere and get a beer with no hassle, walk around and embrace it all. I was very happy to see the amount of Ducks fans that made the trip out for the game.
Once inside, the Arena itself is a beauty. So new, clean, and bright with the sound system crystal clear. Shortly after we were inside warm ups started and looking around at everyone that was there to watch the teams warm up felt just like a playoff game does. I think what Vegas has done the best is be self-aware, and embrace the Vegas style when it comes to their team. In warm ups, the have women in the full Vegas showgirl attire stand behind the Ducks net, in what they call the wall of distraction. They have the mock castle up in the 200’s where they have the drum line and DJ playing. Shaq was in the house which was cause for lots of hoots and hollers.
The pregame show is awesome. I know some people think it’s too much, but its not. They have the knight battling an opposing player’s knight, they have a full on movie on the screen, the drummers are going wild, and then they bring down the large knights mask for the team to skate through and when they come out the place is ROCKIN’. It was a playoff game in mid-October. I couldn’t have been more impressed with how awesome hockey in Vegas was, they pulled it off. Sadly, after all this excitement I had to watch the Ducks attempt to play hockey in 2018.