As the Anaheim Ducks officially return from Olympic break tomorrow night looking to regain their firm grip on the NHL, they will do so against an equally strong St. Louis Blues. In the simplest of terms, it won’t be easy.
St. Louis has played exceptionally well all season, but their sudden push for league dominance prior to the break has them being seen as an early playoff favorite in the Western Conference Division. The only dent in their armor, as of now, is somewhat unpredictable goaltending.
While goaltending is certainly not an issue for the Ducks, their play slipped from lights-out consistency to shaky lines and goals in the few weeks prior to the Olympic break, only winning two of their last five decisions.
While no one really knows where the Ducks slipped in those games, other than mid-season slumping and pre-Olympic jitters, the chemistry Anaheim prides itself certainly took a hit, with multiple defensemen substitutions and Nick Bonino being placed on injured reserve.
What Anaheim can’t do tomorrow night is show that type of confusion against a team as strong as St. Louis; they will take no prisoners. While an offset of cohesiveness is natural considering seven of the Ducks’ players went to Sochi, Anaheim can emphasize their other strengths to compensate for anything lacking.
From that solid goaltending to the power line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner, to the defensive of pairing Ben Lovejoy and Cam Fowler, the Ducks have a few solid punches to catch St. Louis off their feet if they play their cards right.
Anaheim should only hope a shootout isn’t needed to settle the score, because if there is one thing we learned from the Olympic games, it’s that a goalie should never look to face TJ Oshie in a shootout. And as fate would have it, Oshie plays for the Blues.