Vancouver Canucks (35-24-10, 8th in west) at Anaheim Ducks (39-25-8, 4th in west)
Here's how the season series with Vancouver has gone thus far this season:
G1: Ducks allow the first four goals, lose 4-0.
G2: Ducks allow the first three goals, lose 3-2.
G3: Ducks allow the first two goals, lose 2-1.
So how about this time, the Ducks try scoring first (or at least, second)? I've got this wacky theory about the Canucks in that they're damn difficult to come back against when it comes to multi-goal deficits. An early lead might prove fruitful. It's sort of an untested theory at this point, but I'd sure like to see the Ducks give it a try tonight.
I suppose the Sharks and Stars are the target now, with first round home ice being the reward for catching one of them. I've always thought that home ice advantage was a bit overblown, however, and based on the Ducks' shootout lineup last night, the Anaheim coaching staff thinks so also. Here's the shootout lineup that they threw out there last night, which lost laughingly to Bryzgalov and his Coyote friends.
Todd Bertuzzi I actually did see Bertuzzi score on a breakaway against Nabokov this year, but it was in the same game where he had earlier failed on a penalty shot, so essentially it took him two breakaways to score. Bert's still got some hands, but let's not kid ourselves here. He doesn't willfully take shots during the game, what makes him any sort of candidate for the shootout? Bad call, Carlyle.
Todd Marchant This is wrong on so many levels (on every platform except NHL 07). Todd Marchant gets about 40 breakaways a year and scores on zero of them. He is the king of not scoring on glorious scoring chances (where do you think he got the nickname Stone Hands?), but rather will score goals like we've seen in the last two games: fluky bounce-pucks that leave a brown taste in goaltenders' mouths. Horrible call, Carlyle, especially when Stone Hands dropped the puck halfway to the net. Next time I see Marchant in a shootout, he'd better be the fifteenth shooter.
Chris Pronger Yeah, I think a lot of people saw Pronger in '06 become the first person to score a penalty shot goal in the cup finals, but few are clinging to that memory the way Carlyle is. C'mon, coach. He's wearing a frickin' jaw basket and you think it might be time to hearken back to beating Cam the sham Ward? Rotten call, Carlyle.
Look. The Ducks lose shootouts all the time, and I'm always very cool about it. I know that Anaheim has designed its roster around owning the boards, and thus they regularly seem out of their element in shootouts. And that's cool with me--boardwork wins in the postseason, whereas Dallas, one team that can be associated with shootout success, has yet to win a playoff round since the shootout was invented. Still, last night for the first time I really found myself livid, not necessarily at the shootout result, but rather in the manner and lineup that the Ducks decided to lose it. Since Carlyle took over the team, last night stands as the one time I can think of where the Ducks almost intentionally left standings points on the table. An odd time of the year for those sort of shenanigans, that's for sure.
I'll let it slide, but dear god Carlyle, if that's the shootout strategy, why not just let the opposing coach pick our shooters? Odds are, we'd probably have seen Marchant get stripped of the puck by an imaginary defender in either case.
Maybe more pressing is what I saw in regulation, which certainly was a mixed bag. Here's my advice: Bertuzzi or Weight needs to start firing some pucks on net, or these two have to be separated immediately. They are forming a huge hole on the 2nd line, and that's a huge chunk of salary to be paying guys to do nothing except feed Todd Marchant or Bobby Ryan (who can be double-covered since he's the only one who shoots). Try these top two lines: Bertuzzi-Getzlaf-Selanne and Kunitz-Weight-Ryan. Yeah, it sucks separating Kunitz from Selanne, but Weight and Bertuzzi both need to be played carefully, and frankly I just don't see them being anywhere near productive with each other. Maybe five years ago that duo would have worked, but that was back in an era when these guys willingly shot the puck. Now it's like pulling teeth, and I find both guys frustratingly easy to defend because of it.
Prediction: My dad and brother are at the game tonight, and I am not. Neither of them are particularly hockey fans, so I bet they see a yawner and I get to hear about how boring hockey is for the next six months. Ducks 2, Canucks 1. Goals by Pahlsson and Huskins. The game ends in regulation, causing Carlyle to shelf his alternate shootout lineup of O'Donnell, Sutherby, and May. Feel free to offer your own "worst shootout lineup" suggestion for the Ducks in the comments.