Four days have passed since the Anaheim Ducks created waves by trading Dustin Penner away before the NHL trade deadline, and the move is still an unsettling one for fans. While GM Bob Murray probably isn’t as concerned with being popular as he is with bringing home a Stanley Cup, he might be concerned that his league-leading team hasn’t won a game since that deadline, falling in shootout losses to both the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tomorrow night, the Ducks look to get back to their winning ways as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Honda Center. The Leafs won the last meeting between the two teams in a 4-2 decision in October (including a Phil Kessel hat trick), and although Toronto’s season hasn’t been without a few hiccups since the initial meeting, Kessel and the gang have a seen a resurgence these days as they continue down a warpath to the playoffs.
Never underestimate a Canadian team looking to bring a second straight playoff berth back to the home of hockey — it will not end well.
The Leafs’ key to the game Monday night is a simple one: goaltending. Toronto is a team quite used to getting outshot (for a fun exercise, Google and count how many different title variations writers have created around the scenario), but with stellar goaltending from Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, that fact often holds no correlation to the Leaf’s win-loss record.
The Ducks’ key then becomes the only way to beat goaltending: throw every puck possible at the net. The brilliant offensive game that the Ducks are used to intimidating opponents with needs to remain simple and efficient: short passes down the middle, constant net front presence and great communication between offense lines and defensive lines. Anaheim has proved to be brilliant in all three ways this season.
As the best in the west goes against the pride, but oftentimes heartbreak of Canada, the forecast for this contest looks to be anyone’s game — just don’t let Kessel get a hat trick.
Jessica Bradley is an Anaheim Ducks writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessiebear23 or add her to your network on Google.