By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks close out 2014 with what figures to be a year-end bash tonight at Honda Center. And since it’s ‘80s Night, fans are encouraged to wear their brightest and wackiest outfits to the game.
The Ducks, who lead the Pacific Division (and the NHL) with a 24-8-6 record (54 points), hold an 11-point lead on the third-place Sharks (19-13-5, 43 points). Anaheim enters tonight’s contest with a 10-2-1 mark in its past 13 outings, which includes a 2-1 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks this past Sunday at Honda Center. San Jose, meanwhile, has dropped three straight (0-2-1) following a five-game winning streak, including a 3-1 loss to the Canucks last night at SAP Center.
It was Anaheim that came out on top the last time these two clubs met on Dec. 22 at Honda Center. In that game, the Ducks got a late third period goal from Cam Fowler to tie the game at two, and then it was Ryan Kesler who scored the OT winner 58 seconds into the extra frame. The victory was Anaheim’s first in three games vs. San Jose this season.
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says his players are going to have to be better than they were during that game on Dec. 22. “The Sharks know they have to go through the division if they want to get anywhere in the playoffs,” Boudreau said. “They play very well against us. It’s going to be a really tough game.
“Hopefully we can do better than we did last week, which was scoring late and taking it to overtime. When two good teams play, it’s usually nip and tuck the whole way. Hopefully we come out on top.”
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy says preventing the league’s fourth-best power play from getting any opportunities is going to be critical tonight. “We need to stay out of the box,” he said. “That was a key for us. We need to be conscious of where they are at all times. If we give up odd-man rushes, they’re going to have the advantage.”
It’s all about smart hockey, says Lovejoy, an Ivy League [Dartmouth] grad. “This team thrives off of turnovers and mistakes. When we’re playing a smart game, we’re able to handle them. When we’re trying to make fancy plays going through the neutral zone, they absolutely punish us. They have a lot of talent that can get going quickly and make you look very stupid.”
CLOSING OUT THE YEAR
No team has earned more points than the Ducks in the 2014 calendar year. With one game remaining in 2014, Anaheim leads the NHL in points (107) and points percentage (.686), with Boston the next in line (102 points). Dating back even further (to the start of 2013-14), the Ducks own the top regular-season record in the NHL at 78-28-14. In addition, Anaheim also has the league's best home (41-11-7) and road (37-17-7) records. The Ducks have 71 wins in regulation/overtime since the start of 2013-14, leading NHL teams and 10 over the closest Western Conference opponent (St. Louis, 61). And among NHL defensemen since the start of the 2013-14 season, Hampus Lindholm ranks second with a +41 rating.
DECEMBER TO REMEMBER
Since Dec. 1, the Ducks co-lead the NHL in wins (10-2-1) and standings points (21). Among December league leaders, Ryan Getzlaf ranks first in scoring (5-15=20) and assists. Getzlaf's 20 points are the most by a Ducks player in any single month since March 2011, when the Anaheim center also recorded 20 points. In addition, Getzlaf's 20 points are a team record for December, breaking the previous mark of 19 (Paul Kariya, Dec. 1996; Teemu Selanne, Dec. 2006).
Frederik Andersen has set a club record for wins in a calendar month by a Ducks goaltender, going a league-leading 10-1-1. The previous record of nine was established by Guy Hebert (Feb. 1999) and matched by both Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Mar. 2006) and Jonas Hiller (Jan. 2010 and Dec. 2013). The last NHL goalie(s) with 10+ wins in December were Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo in 2009-10 (10 each). Anaheim owns a league-best 21-3-2 record over the last two Decembers (.846 points percentage) and is one win shy of matching the most December victories in club history (11-1-1 in 2013).
THE GAME OF ONE
If the Ducks win tonight, there’s a good chance it’ll be a nail biter. Fifteen of Anaheim's last 17 victories have been one-goal games dating to a 1-0 win on Oct. 28 at Chicago, including seven decided in extra time (four overtime, three shootout). The club's 12 straight wins by one goal from Oct. 28-Dec. 10 were the most in the NHL since Atlanta had 14 in 2010-11. The Ducks lead the NHL with 18 wins in one-goal games (18-0-6) and join Vancouver as the only two NHL teams without a regulation loss in a game decided by one goal. Anaheim also ranks tied for second among NHL teams for winning percentage in one-goal games (.750). Since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the Ducks have posted a 59-6-20 record in one-goal games, owning the top record in the NHL by win (points) percentage (.812).