By Kyle Shohara
Pictures from Practice
The middle of the season can spur a state of complacency for some, but the NHL-leading Ducks have turned on the jets. Anaheim enters tomorrow’s game winners of four straight (4-0-0) and six of their last seven (6-1-0), with points in nine of the last 11 (8-2-1, 17 points). An eight-game homestand that began in late December and a home-friendly schedule that has them in Southern California for over a month (36 of 37 days beginning Dec. 20 through Jan. 25), has allowed the Ducks to maximize their practice time.
“We’re using this time to get even better,” said birthday boy Hampus Lindholm, who turned 21 today. “We’re working on the little things, tightening them up for the end [of the season] and into the playoffs.”
“We just want to keep improving every game until the end,” said Lindholm’s defensive partner, Francois Beauchemin. “We’re going to lose some games, but as long as we play a solid 60-minute game and the other team beats us, we’re fine with that. As long as we play the way we want, and the way we can, we’re going to be fine.”
The Ducks have made the most of their practice sessions, working extensively on special teams (power play and penalty kill), and their forecheck and d-zone coverage. With a power-play goal in five straight games for the first time since Nov. 25-Dec. 4, 2011, Anaheim is 6-for-15 (40.0%) with the man advantage and 13-for-15 in penalty kills (86.7%) since Jan. 7.
“When you practice them a lot, and you’re using the same units, usually you’re going to benefit,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “When you win and you don’t get goals scored on you, you usually have a power-play goal and you usually don’t allow a penalty-killing goal. Things are going well in that respect.”
ON THE FLAMES
The players say it’s a stat only reporters tend to make a big deal of, but it’s hard to ignore the success Anaheim has had against the Calgary Flames at Honda Center. The Ducks have won 19 consecutive home games over Calgary, the longest home win streak vs. one opponent in club history. In fact, the Ducks have not lost at home to the Flames since Jan. 19, 2004 and are 20-7-2 overall vs. Calgary dating to Nov. 29, 2007.
The Ducks had to hold on for dear life in their home victory vs. Calgary on Nov. 25, a game they nearly squandered after seeing a 3-0 lead turn into a 3-2 score during the late stages of regulation. This is a different Flames squad than in seasons past and it features one of the most dynamic d-pairings in the league, with All-Star bound Mark Giordano and the offensively gifted TJ Brodie.
“Every game we play them is close, and every game since Bob Hartley got there has been close,” said Boudreau. “You know you’re getting the work ethic, and now the work ethic has some really good talent to go alongside it.”
“They’ve got some really good offensive defensemen who jump up into the rush to create three-on-twos and four-on-threes,” said Beauchemin, alluding to the aforementioned Giordano and Brodie, and also Dennis Wideman, who leads Flames d-men in goals (12) and who scored the overtime winner last night at Los Angeles. “We need to play five-on-five, stay disciplined and get our forechecking game going. We wear teams down when we do that.”