Buffalo - October 22, 2014 -
Who: Anaheim Ducks
Where: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA
Know thine enemy: To the surprise of few, the Ducks are red-hot since dropping their opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve won five in a row and are one of the highest scoring teams in the Western Conference right now.
The momentum starting churning when the Ducks made the switch over the Frederik Andersen in net. Since then, he’s gone 5-0-0 with a 1.38 goals against average and .950 save percentage. He’s just one of two NHL goalies to win 25 of his first 30 starts (Ross Brooks is the other).
Offensively, the Ducks are getting it from everywhere. Sure, Ryan Getzlaf (eight points) and Corey Perry (five goals, seven points) are again leading the charge, but they’re getting just as much from Ryan Kesler (five points), Sami Vatanen (five points), Matt Belesky (four goals) and so on. They’re deep, they’re talented and they’re on fire.
About the Sabres: Hey, remember during the offseason when everyone was certain the Sabres couldn’t be as bad offensively as they were last year? Yeah, about that.
The Sabres have been about as inept as possible through the first six games of the season, averaging just 1.17 goals per game and having been shut out twice in a row against the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins. A whopping four players have goals so far and no one has more than two. The only worthwhile player so far has been Zemgus Girgensons; the rest have just simply been there, waiting for the loss to come.
Even worse is the matter of shots for and against. They give up a massive amount of shots per game: 37.8 per game and it is little wonder they’re as miserable as they are when they can’t seem to keep pucks from heading to their net. This is compounded by the fact that they’re barely mustering 23 shots per night of their own. Simple math says that when the opponent puts up 15 more shots per night than you are, you’re probably going to lose.
The last time these two met: Once the Ducks got on the board in the first period, it was all over. Against most teams, the Sabres just can’t compete offensively let alone against a team the quality of the Ducks. Needless to say, the Ducks ran away with that one, walking away with a 5-1 victory.
The score could have been far worse, too. The shot totals came to a 44-12 advantage for the Ducks and there’s obviously no way you can compete at the NHL level when that’s happening. The difference is likely to be so pronounced tonight, but there are few signs pointing to anything much more competitive than that.
The part where I predict things: This is a matchup of one of the best versus one of the worst and it will play out exactly how you think it would. The Sabres struggle in every aspect of the game, from creating shots to preventing them. They can’t control the puck and turn it over quite a bit as well.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are one of the best in the game for a reason. They’re deep up front, mobile and smart on the back end and they’re getting lights out goaltending. Their run won’t end tonight and a loss to the Sabres would be an embarrassing enough scenario that the Ducks don’t want to see it happen.
Score: 4-1 Ducks
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