Anaheim Ducks (38-23-7, 3rd in west) at Chicago Blackhawks (32-28-6, t-11th in west)
The table below shows all of Anaheim's 14 western conference opponents (plus a 15th group, the eastern conference), and the Ducks' regular season record against each opponent since the NHL lockout. Essentially, this list represents which teams the Ducks have most easily taken points against, and you can see that Chicago sits way way atop this list.
(Click image to enlarge)
The Blackhawks, as I've heard time and time again, are a young improving team, so I guess someday soon I'm going to miss this era where the Ducks show up and automatically collect two points. Not too soon, I hope. Chicago has been Anaheim's best boost for offense, defense, and penalty killing.
Some other comments about this opponent table:
- Oh yeah, now I remember why I hate the Stars. The Ducks have only beaten the Stars seven times since the lockout. To put that in perspective, they have beaten five non-divisional opponents that many times over the same stretch. By my eye, the problem for the Ducks has been perpetual puck-chasing. Anaheim loves dumping in pucks and retrieving, but they don't get to do much retrieving against Dallas and crazy Turco. Oddly, I think I've been to two Stars games since the lockout and the Ducks won 'em both (including one in a shootout where Carlyle threw out Jonathan Hedstrom and Rob Niedermayer, if you can believe it).
- As for the rest of the Pacific, you guys are all right. Of Anaheim's five favorite western opponents, three sit nearby in the Pacific Division, which is particularly sweet when playing in a division-heavy schedule. I don't get the sense that this one-sidedness will last terribly long for the Ducks, though. The Sharks are bound to get their shit together at some point, and the Kings can't possibly get worse (uh, right, Rudy?). The Coyotes have already turned a corner; they've won more games against Anaheim this year than they had the previous two years combined, which really speaks to the Chicago-like stranglehold the Ducks once held over Gretzky's bunch.
- Sure, why not have more interconference games? On principle, I am against having more east-west games. Since opposite-conference teams do not compete on the same standings, I find these games to be less compelling. Sure both teams want to win and get the two points, but there isn't any urgency to keep the opponent from getting a point also. In east-west games, getting to overtime is a win-win proposition, and I don't think that's a good incentive for the league to build on. Still, I guess I can understand fans wanting to see distant players (though I generally see players better on TV than in person), and I'm not the guy who has to do the extra traveling, so sure, NHL. Have it your way. From the looks of things, the Ducks are better off playing extra games against the east (especially Ottawa, apparently) than they are against anyone in the Northwest Division.
Prediction: My commuting life sucks this week, and I probably won't get to watch tonight's or tomorrow's game until probably Friday. Don't worry about spoiling anything; I'll be informed enough to know the score. If anyone wants to let me know their game impressions, though, I'd be glad to read 'em. Oh as for the game prediction, let's call it a tight one. After all, Chicago is a young improving team. Ducks 4, Hawks 3. Goals by Beauchemin*, Getzlaf, Pahlsson, and May. As a bonus, Bryan Murray gets ejected from the game for trethpathing.
* My latest craze is to yell, "Take THAT, Bergeron!" any time a Duck blueliner scores a goal. Or even if there's a good shot on net. It turns out I'm yelling that phrase quite a bit, actually—I've also incorporated it into my video game lingo and used it while driving in SoCal traffic.