Ducks Gamedays -- Groundhog Weekend

So in an admittedly lazy 2-for-1 gameday post last weekend, I opened thusly:

Saturday: Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators, 5 pm
On the Forecheck and Anaheim Calling.

Sunday: Anaheim Ducks at Chicago Blackhawks, 4 pm
Second City Hockey and Anaheim Calling.

Funny thing about these NHL schedule-makers: after the Ducks lost both of those games one week ago, they somehow get to do the EXACT SAME THING AGAIN this weekend.  It's like a fucking glitch in the Matrix or something -- a chance to redeem past wrongs.  It's a straight-out-of-Hollywood "what have we learned?" plot gimmick:

Groundhogweekend_medium
It was inevitable -- at some point I had to do a Bob Murray / Bill Murray crossover.

So sure, the Ducks lost both games last weekend by a collective score of 8-3, with Anaheim producing zero offense outside of the Brown-Nokelainen-Artyukhin line -- never a recipe for success.  But now Getzlaf is back; Selanne is back; our boy Beleskey is a top-line contributor -- offensive lines seem balanced again, and it's a chance to do this weekend trip right! 

If not, we may be cursed to replay this @NSH-@CHI schedule every weekend for the rest of eternity...

"Phil? Hey, Phil? Phil! Phil Connors? Phil Connors, I thought that was you!"

Man, the Ducks' power play sure is rotten, eh?  Over the past nine games, the Ducks have played a total of 51:39 of 5-on-4 hockey and 2:30 of 5-on-3 hockey, and during that near-hour of man "advantage", Anaheim has been outscored two goals to one.  Teemu's return is imminent, so that should help immensely, but c'mon, non-Teemus.  You can still resemble competence.

Waitingforteemu_medium
Well, this image was originally about semi-retirement, but the power play woes keep it relevant.

Prediction: Ducks show improvement on the zero standings points earned last weekend, escape the Groundhog Weekend curse, and get to continue on with their regular NHL schedule.  Teemu scores Anaheim's first power play goal of the new decade.

If plans hold, I should be around for both today and tomorrow's game comments -- both in this thread.   Hooray for weekend laziness!

Go Ducks.

[LATE SATURDAY NIGHT EDIT: I'm amending this post to include the questions and answers for my brief interview in The Committed Indian, a fan-driven publication available at Hawks games.  Feel free to respond their questions or my answers in the comments.]

First thing we have to ask is we've heard a lot about Scott Niedermayer having a down year, and the -12 certainly suggests that. What's going on? And is that the big reason you're 25th in goals-against?

Well, Scott is a year older and age is starting to show a little, but his +/- problems mainly stem from his new slew of defensive partners. The first half of this season, Scotty has paired up with eight different partners -- Sbisa, Boynton, Eminger, Festerling, Mikkelson, Whitney, Wisniewski, and Brookbank -- none of which were around at the start of last season, many of which are still very new to regular NHL action.

Generally, the quality and quantity of his minutes have been tougher than when he shared them with Pronger, and he's typically had to partner with whichever defenseman needed the most babysitting. The problem isn't that Scotty's skillset is worse than last year; it's that his job description has gotten tougher and even more demanding. He'll still be a valuable asset for Team Canada in Vancouver, though -- I'm confident in that.

This Dan Sexton is almost a point-per-game since he came up. Where did he come from?

To be honest, I had to look it up -- he played at Bowling Green University last year, apparently, and was signed by the Ducks in the summer. This kid is pretty good -- he brings a dogged puck pursuit, decent speed, and a Selanne-like willingness to shoot first. Unfortunately, at BoC we've already nicknamed him the "Registered Sex Offender", which probably isn't going away any time soon (we're jerks), but he's been a great fill-in winger on the second line. I'm not sure how much of his success I can contribute directly to his own talents, though -- linemates Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan have been outstanding in the games where the Sex Offender has scored.

James Wisniewski was a bit of a false idol around these parts. What do Ducks fans think of him? Or are they still dizzy from the two goals he gave away in Game 7 last year?

It's a bit of a tricky question -- the "Wizard of Niewski" is definitely one of the best defensemen wearing a Ducks uniform this season, but that's not setting the bar very high. I definitely like his willingness to shoot the puck and his overall toughness, but then again there's a downside, too -- quite a few pucks tend to go off Wisneiwski and past our netminder. Ducks fans do appreciate his shot-blocking, but I think a lot of that is theatrics -- the guy seemingly gets injured once a game, but he usually plays on.

It's a tricky thing, trying to really hate Wisniewski -- even his G7 blunders are excusable. After all, the guy was playing after suffering a bloody lung contusion; he was wheeled off on a fucking stretcher in G3. The guy is sloppy heroism at its finest.

How does this Giguere-Hiller problem get solved?

I don't think it does -- nobody's sucker enough to take J.S. Giguere's contract off our books (well, I haven't entirely given up on Brian Burke yet). But his contract runs only one more year, so it's not the worst thing. As for who's the better goaltender, these days it's regularly Jonas Hiller, and it'll be interesting to see what sort of salary the Swissman gets next summer.

I hope it's affordable, because I think the Ducks are in for a season just like the Hawks were in last year -- paying two guys to be #1 goaltenders and waiting out a season to get some of that spending room back. Still, I don't mind sitting on Giguere's $6M cap hit for one more season, even if it's just for karma's sake. Anaheim's two most successful postseasons have occurred in Giguere's last two contract years (2003, 2007) -- maybe we'll get lucky again next season.

How much does the injury to Joffrey Lupul hurt?

I'm sure they've got him medicated to the point where the pain is manageable -- just kidding. :)

The loss of Lupul on its own doesn't hurt the Ducks very much -- an otherwise-healthy Anaheim roster really has enough scoring winger options in Perry, Selanne, Ryan, and now even the Sex Offender; if it were only Lupul hurt, Anaheim could still ice a capable top-six. The problem last weekend was that Anaheim was short Lupul, Selanne, and even Getzlaf -- the forward lines without those three becomes way thinner.

Really, the main problem that resulted from Lupul-and-Selanne's concurrent injuries was that in the follow-up roster-recovery haste, Kyle Calder somehow ended up on Getzlaf-and-Perry's wing on the top line, and he managed to neutralize all their offense. Did Calder really score 85 goals in a Hawks uniform? He didn't score one for the Ducks.

Obviously, the standings don't look pretty right now, but the Ducks were able to crash the party last season after a late-season revival. Can they and will they do it again?

Can they? I suppose, but I question whether the Ducks have enough top blueliners to really get it done. If they could find a way to add a top-three d-man and drop most of their blueliners down a slot, I'd have more confidence -- I do like how the forwards are shaking up and how Hiller has looked in net recently.

Will they? Of course they will -- Positivity! :) Watch your tailfeathers, injuns; Go Ducks.
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