The Detroit Red Wings will tangle with an ornery opponent in the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday evening (7:30 PM EST on FSD/Prime Ticket/97.1 FM).
The 27-19-and-11 Ducks are in a furious fight to earn a playoff spot in the Western Conference, finding themselves 1 point short of the final Wild Card spot in the West. They’ve won 2 of their last 3 games, but Anaheim’s had a bumpy February, most recently dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the San Jose Sharks this past Sunday.
Anaheim spent Monday flying to Detroit to open a 4-game road trip, and Detroit took Monday off as the Wings are amidst a stretch of 10 games played over the course of 17 nights and afternoons, so we’ll look back at Sunday’s Ducks-Sharks game to yield context for Tuesday’s match-up.
The Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens reported that the Ducks “blew a point” on Sunday afternoon:
There is still plenty of time for the Ducks to overcome all the available points they’ve let fall out of their pockets but Sunday night became another one of those that they’ll rue what they lost if it comes to that.
Another chance to take a step toward inserting themselves into the Western Conference playoff picture frame went haywire. Timo Meier forced overtime with a goal in the final minute of regulation and the San Jose Sharks erased a two-goal deficit to grab a 3-2 shootout victory at Honda Center on Sunday night.
Redemption in the shootout also escaped the Ducks as Adam Henrique was stopped by San Jose goalie Martin Jones and Rickard Rakell hit the post. Joe Pavelski converted the Sharks’ opening attempt past Ducks goalie John Gibson and Logan Couture wrapped up with the win by scoring.
With Jones pulled for an extra attacker, Meier positioned himself in front of the net and executed a perfect redirect play of Couture’s pass with 53.7 seconds left. It was a critical defensive breakdown at an inopportune time for the Ducks (27-19-11), who otherwise played well at key points in their own zone.
“It’s unfortunate we gave up a goal with  seconds around there,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s the craw. That’s what sticks with us right now.”
Cam Fowler fell on the sword afterward. Meier was his man and the Ducks’ defenseman lost his attempt to make a challenge on the forward when he momentarily looked elsewhere for another play that didn’t materialize.
“I should have just tried to get under his stick,” Fowler said. “For whatever reason, I took a look and I thought there was somebody coming back door. As soon as I changed my stick over there, that’s when they fired it in. So that was the read that I made. It was a terrible read. I feel terrible about it. Those things happen. But it was my play. Unfortunately I let the guys down.”
Fowler continued while speaking with AnaheimDucks.com’s Adam Brady:
“That last goal is a tough one to give up,” Fowler said. “I kind of left my man in front, so personally I feel a little responsible for that one. Those things happen.”
Neither team ended it in overtime, despite some chances at both ends, giving way to the ninth shootout of the season for Anaheim. It ended relatively quickly, with the Sharks burying their first two attempts and the Ducks coming up empty on the sticks of Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell (with Rakell ringing the post).
It was just the latest example of the Ducks struggling to put games away, something Fowler said is, “something as a group we need to improve on. It’s a lot harder to do it than it is talking about it. You just have the tendency to kind of sit back and make sure nobody gets behind you, but you end up letting the other team dictate the play. That kind of happened tonight.”
The Ducks missed an opportunity to move into a tie for third in the Pacific Division with the Sharks (who hold a game in hand) and provide themselves a satisfying sendoff before facing their next four games (and six of the next seven) on the road.
“I didn’t think we had energy for the 60 minutes,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We stood around a little bit too much. We had the start we needed to have, but it seemed like we ran out of gas or we didn’t seem to get ahold of the pucks. We turned the puck over a few times in the third where we should’ve put the puck in. It led to momentum shifts for them.”
Among AnaheimDucks.com’s Postgame Notes is this quip from Carlyle:
On the importance of the upcoming road trip: We lost a point. We lost some ground. I’m sure that point will hurt us tonight. The next one, we’ll get ourselves ready. We have a long day tomorrow. We’ll get ourselves ready and prepare ourselves to play the Detroit hockey club in their building. That will be the kick off to the road trip. We always try to utilize the first game as a springboard to help you get into a positive frame of mind.
The Ducks also spoke with the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Coppinger about the “make or break” nature of their road trip:
“We talked about this, this is a big road trip for us,” defenseman Cam Fowler said. “It can kind of make or break things for us moving forward here, so we need to go out with a good mentality, make sure that we’re focused on every game. We have the capabilities to do it but we have to go out and prove that.”
If the series of road games doesn’t go according to plan, the Ducks could be on the brink of missing the postseason by the time they’re back in Anaheim.
The Ducks have won the Pacific Division five consecutive seasons. That honor seems all but gone with the way the expansion Golden Knights are playing.
Also likely out of reach: the 100-point plateau, which the Ducks have reached each of the last four seasons. The Blackhawks are the only other squad to that span.
There are just 27 games left for the Ducks to solidify themselves as contenders and stave off elimination. The last time they didn’t quality was during the 2011-12 season. But there’s still plenty of hope in the Ducks’ locker room.
“We know what’s at stake, we know where we are in the standings,” said Corey Perry, who won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. “We know what it takes to get in the playoffs and win in the playoffs. We have to stick with that, stick with our game plan, stick with our structure and keep pushing forward.”
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) February 12, 2018
We’ll shift gears via DetroitRedWings.com’s Arthur J. Regner’s fine Wings-Ducks preview, which explains the screwed-up standings and scouts the Ducks’ players:
Anaheim trails the Calgary Flames by a point for third in the Pacific, but the Flames have two more wins and a game in hand on the Ducks.
Los Angeles is fourth in the Pacific with 65 points, but the Kings have three more victories than the Ducks and two games in hand.
When you look at the wild card race in the Western Conference, Anaheim sits in fourth place. The Ducks trail Dallas by five points for the first wild card spot with both teams having played 57 games.
Minnesota holds the second and final wild card spot with 66 points, and like the Kings, the Wild have three more victories and two games in hand on the Ducks.
Throw in the Avalanche with 30 victories and 64 points in 55 games and, if Chicago gets hot (56 points in 55 games), you could have up to nine teams in the mix for the two wild card playoff berths in the Western Conference.
Today’s Red Wings notebooks included the Free Press’s Helene St. James discussing Anthony Mantha’s 30-goal-scoring potential, and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan discussed Tomas Tatar’s streaky scoring. Kulfan also addressed a more pressing issue:
The Red Wings have enabled three-goal leads in the third period to disappear, ultimately splitting the two games.
The way the two games unfolded were different, with the Islanders exploding for four goals on a Tyler Bertuzzi five-minute slashing penalty, while Washington chipped away at its deficit.
What can the Red Wings do to play better with a lead?
“I guess score would be the only thing else we could have done (Sunday),” Blashill said. “We pushed back hard at that point (in the third period).
“The one thing we talk about is making sure one mistake doesn’t lead to two, and lead to three, and when you make a mistake, let’s make a hard play and if you have to ice the puck, ice the puck, but let’s make sure one mistake stays at one mistake. That’s something we’ll keep working on.”
Blashill, and several players, felt the Red Wings didn’t sit back Sunday and continued to play aggressively.
“There were moments of hard push-back,” Blashill said. “You get late in the game there and you take a penalty and they’re able to score. They obviously have a good power play. Our PK (penalty kill) is a little fragile right now, but we’ll get the PK going. We have great penalty killers. We’ll get it back and going.”
I sure hope so, for competitive hockey’s sake…
Also of Red Wings-related note: The Athletic’s Craig Custance penned a list of the top rental players available for trade, and Custance’s #3 player is Mike Green:
Mike Green, D, Red Wings – Green might have his flaws defensively, but he’s the only defenseman on this list who has the ability to be a game-changer. He doesn’t have the huge shot he used to have in Washington, but he’s a skilled passer who can help the transition game. Ideally, he’s on your third pair, but he’s consistently played top four minutes for the Red Wings. “He’s still a skilled guy, who is offensively talented and can make a difference on anyone’s power play,” said an NHL scout. “He has to be put in the right role. For me, the question is, ‘Is he happy if he’s not playing top four minutes?’” The Lightning are a natural fit, but they might prefer to take a run at Ryan McDonagh first. One NHL source suggested that the Lightning might be interested in beefing up a potential deal with Detroit that would go beyond Green, with Tampa scouts (including the GM) regulars in Detroit for recent games.
Custance continues (paywall), and his #11 player is Petr Mrazek, though there’s not as much information as to what the market might be for the Wings’ #1B goaltender;
Paul Kukla noted that the NHL Now’s Brian Lawton discussed the Red Wings’ trade candidates half-a-minute into the following clip:
“We don’t know how much is roster, how much is [Coach Jeff Blashill], how much is experience, et cetera because he has not coached anywhere else in the NHL before,” Bacon said. However, he added, it’s already February, and by now there should be more synergy between coaching staff and players, especially when it comes to knowing what will land a player a five minute penalty.
And in the FYI department:
THIS DATE IN 1995: Sergei Fedorov scored all four goals for the @DetroitRedWings in a 4-4 vs. LAK.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 12, 2018