Buffalo - October 13, 2014 - Who: Anaheim Ducks
Where: First Niagra Center, Buffalo, NY
Know thine enemy: From top to bottom, the Ducks are a team matched by few on paper in the Western Conference.
Offensively, they’re somehow even more dangerous than last year’s outfit. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the team’s two leading scorers and two of the top 10 in the league last year, are off to the races again. Perry has three goals and four points while Getzlaf has a 2-2-4 line. But it’s Ryan Kesler, the big offseason acquisition, that is getting noticed. He seems to be fitting in well in his new home, with a goal and three assists through the team’s first two games. They roll two imposing lines and a tough third unit.
Defensively, the Ducks move the puck well. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Francois Beauchemin and Sami Vatanen are all capable of joining the rush and Linholm/Fowler see the most power play time of the group. They won’t beat you up, but they’re a smart, skilled group.
It’s goaltender where things are questionable. John Gibson got the start in the opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins and was promptly lit up for six goals in a 6-4 loss. Frederik Andersen got the start against the Detroit Red Wings two nights later and turned in a fine performance, giving up a pair in a 3-2 win. Expect him to get the start in Buffalo.
About the Sabres: Though everyone was certain they’d improved over the offseason, the first two games of the year scream “2013-14 Sabres”. They play competitively, but they just don’t have the talent to get the job done.
On Thursday, they kept it close with the Columbus Blue Jackets for two and a half periods before the Jackets pulled away. On Saturday, facing Stanley Cup contender Chicago, they were tied at 2-2 until about five minutes into the third when a Patrick Kane tally started and avalanche of offense for the Hawks.
The biggest, most notable issue early in this season has been puck possession. In both games, the Sabres went on for extended stretches where they were simply chasing, unable to regain possession. They look like a team trying its hardest, yet they just aren’t at a level where they can compete. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth has looked solid in net, but he very obviously struggles when there is traffic in front; he loses track of the puck and is beaten when he can’t see where the shot is coming from.
The part where I predict things: Offense has been hard to come by through the first two games for the Sabres and the trend should continue this afternoon. Enroth and the defense have been okay (there have been noticeable lapses, but they haven’t seemed awful), but the ineptitude of the offense is noticeable.
The Sabres should keep it close through the first half of the game before the Ducks grab the lead and never look back. Anaheim is too deep up front and a half-way decent performance from Andersen (or whoever is in net) should keep the Sabres at bay.
Score: 4-2 Ducks
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