December 10 2010 09:18AM
Calgary's relentless pursuit of mediocrity continues in Orange County this evening against a team who's record is flattering, frankly. The Ducks aren't very good at all, and this is a case where their underlying numbers are worse than their record by a fair distance.
Anaheim's had a pretty odd season to get to .500. They were about the worst team in the league early on, then reeled off a lengthy winning streak (note to Flames fans: yes, winning multiple games in succession is not only permitted, but fashionable in some quarters) to get back into the mushy middle of the conference. Still, they get badly out-shot 5v5 most nights, and they've earned their -12 GF/GA in that game state on merit.
Anaheim's best players are dangerous, but those guys are still being held in check or outplayed as often as not. There's exactly one regular forward in the Corsi black on the Duck, and Bobby Ryan likely has had the easiest ice time of any of Anaheim's top six forwards to get to that status. Getzlaf and Perry just aren't moving the pile forward as often as you'd normally suspect, and after those guys the drop off is steep.
There's been plenty of talk about Cam Fowler making the club as a raw rookie, and kudos to him for that, but he's on the team because after Lubo Visnovsky and Toni Lydman, there just isn't much left for Randy Carlyle to work with on the blue. The others, including Fowler, are getting out-shot against middling comp or worse. That really sums up Anaheim's plight for this year. They have a decent group of front line players, and then they go right over the cliff in terms of quality.
What keeps the Ducks as a team afloat is quality work from their goalies. McBackup has resembled a good NHL goalie since he moved to the Coast, but it's Jonas Hiller that the Ducks rely on, and he's been good for several years running. He gives the Ducks a chance every night, and even on a team with Getzlaf he's their MVP thus far. Hiller was forced into action on Wednesday after McElhinney was hit in the mask by a puck, but I'd still expect to see him this evening.
Game wise, this is a game where no penalties at all would be ideal, because as indifferent as the Flames are, Anaheim is worse at EV. The one way that they can run up a score is to get PP chances, and they do convert about 20% of the time, so, as usual, stay out of the box. 50 minutes spent at EV would absolutely favour Calgary a lot more than the hosts.