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Kings Gameday: Why the Ducks Can't Win California

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As Earl detailed below, the Ducks have a terrible record against the Pacific Division and a particularly egregious record against the 2 good teams in California: 8 games, 0 wins, and a lot of laughter from LA and the Bay Area. Why are the Ducks so terrible against their Pacific foes? Well, some of it's luck, obviously; the Ducks are bad but they're not that bad. But I think the real problem is that the Ducks don't match up well against either LA or San Jose because of their centers. Both Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar present a riddle that Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle can't solve because he doesn't have the chips to complete the puzzle. The result? Yatzee.*

*In my dreams I look exactly like Zapp Brannigan.

Here's a look at who scored in the last game between the Kings and the Ducks to illustrate my point. Thoughts after:

Goal Who Scored Anaheim Line Los Angeles Line
1 ANA Blake-Koivu-Selanne Smyth-Stoll-Brown
2 LA Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan Richardson-Kopitar-Meat
3 LA Blake-Koivu-Selanne Richardson-Kopitar-Meat
4 (PP) LA Marchant-Chipchura Frolov-Kopitar-Handzus
5 LA Ryan-Koivu-Selanne Frolov-Handzus-Segal
6 ANA Bodie-Getzlaf-Parros Ivanans-Moller-Harrold
7 ANA Belesky-Getzlaf-Perry Frolov-Handzus-Segal
8 ANA Blake-Marchant-Carter Smyth-Stoll-Brown
9 LA Belesky-Getzlaf-Perry Richardson-Kopitar-Brown
10 (PP) LA Marchant-Koivu Frolov-Kopitar-Handzus

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle spent the entire game matching Ryan Getzlaf against Anze Kopitar at the expense of matching up his other lines. The result? Kopitar and Getzlaf were both on the ice for 2 goals, both for LA. Carlyle matches up Getzlaf against both Kopitar and Thornton most of the time, with results that look similar to this.

(Also interesting: The Ducks actually won the bottom line match-up in the last game, mostly because Getzlaf was double-shifted away from Kopitar. I would think it'd be the other way around, with Getzlaf whooping Kopitar and Stoll and Handzus beating Marchant and Koivu. Funny how hockey works.)

Here's another chart because you're nerds and love that sort of thing. It's a look at all 8 games played by Getzlaf against the Sharks and Kings:

Opponent Points +/-
SJ (10/3) 1 (PP) -2
SJ (11/21) 0 -1
LA (12/1) 2 (1PP) +1
SJ (12/17) 1 (PP) -2
SJ (26) 0 -1
LA (1/14) 0 -2
SJ (1/21) 0 -1
LA (2/4) 2 0
6 (3 PP) -8

As you can see, Getzlaf hasn't been doing too well. He's scoring well enough but he's not preventing the other team from scoring at all. And most importantly, Getzlaf hasn't gotten an even-strength point against Thornton or Kopitar all season, despite playing a vast majority of his minutes against those two. Getzlaf is getting the match-up but he isn't winning them, especially against Thornton. (Watch those two next time they play, it's embarrassing.) The question now is, why does Carlyle keep putting Getzlaf in a situation he can't succeed in? The answer is, well, who else is he going to put there? Todd Marchant and Saku Koivu, the Ducks' other two good centers, are both 5'10". Kyle Chipchura can play center and he's 6'2", but he's also terrible so... no. Thornton is 6'5" and Kopitar is 6'3" but with crazy monkey arms. You need someone with size to put up against them and Getzlaf is it.

Randy Carlyle is a big fan of the traditional line set-up: 2 scoring lines, a shutdown line, and a gritty 4th line. When the Ducks won the Cup, Carlyle could expel his efforts matching Rob Niedermayer (6'2"), Sammy Pahlsson (6'0") and Travis Moen (6'2") against the other team's top line and count on them holding their opponent to 0 goals while Selanne and Getzlaf tried to score on the other team's weaker lines. Carlyle can't do that anymore. He needs Getzlaf to not only score but also shut down the other team's top line and thus far Getzlaf has not shown that he can do that. The Ducks either need a defensive center with some size or they need to pray Getzlaf gets his head out of his ass.

Oh, and in case you were curious:

Joe Thornton: 5 games against ANA, 4 goals, 9 assists, +7 (Jesus)

Anze Kopitar: 3 games against ANA, 2 goals, 3 assists, +3

Prediction: Kings win, 5-3. Goals by Kopitar, Smyth, Brown (x2) and Johnson.