St. Louis Blues vs. Anaheim Ducks: Game Preview and Opponent Outlook


The St. Louis Blues will head into Anaheim on Sunday evening and conclude a three-game West Coast road trip against the Ducks. After picking up a momentous 6-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night, the Blues could earn points in all three games of the trip if they get either an overtime loss or win against the Ducks.

After a night of some notable milestones, we’ll see if the Blues can get some more tonight. In Jake Allen‘s first start of the 2014-15 season and his first since the 2012-13 season, he allowed only one goal and recorded 24 saves. Forward Jaden Schwartz also had a hat-trick and increased his team-leading points total to seven on the season.

We talked to Jason Byun of our fellow FanSided site, Pucks of a Featherto give us some perspective on what to expect from the Ducks on Sunday.

1. The Ducks’ goalie situation seems to be more up in the air than usual this season. What are your views on how the situation in net is going to play out?

JB: Honestly, I expected there to be a bit more early controversy regarding the starting goaltending situation. John Gibson hasn’t really gotten a chance to assert himself, since he only got the one start against Pittsburgh, and he gave up six goals. However, the blue-line really did him no favors in the opening game: to me, the issue was not giving up six goals, but the team giving up 39 shots on goal. Expecting a goalie to consistently make 35 or more saves a night in order to win is asking for trouble, and that shouldn’t be the formula or norm for any team that expects to win a good number of games.

However, I can’t take away anything from the performances Frederik Andersen has had in the first five games of the season. He’s really put a stranglehold on the job after going 4-0-0 in his four starts, including a 39 save effort against the Flyers on Tuesday, the 14th.

Gibson and Andersen were each supposed to get two games on the four game road trip to open the season, but after Andersen only faced 12 shots against the Sabres, Bruce Boudreau felt that Andersen was able to go on the second leg of a back-to-back. Instead, Gibson got sent to AHL Norfolk this weekend so he could play two games. The Ducks’ five game homestand is against Minnesota, St. Louis, Buffalo, Columbus, and San Jose. There’s no logic in throwing Gibson into the fire: four of those five teams are expected to be playoff teams (and in my opinion, very good playoff teams at that). He should be back for the game against Buffalo with playing time under his belt, and as is the case for any young player, the best way to improve and develop one’s game is to play.

Just because Andersen has won the job right now doesn’t mean anything to me, honestly. Gibson has tremendous upside, and he showed it in the playoff series against Los Angeles, when he was a huge reason the Ducks came back from a 2-0 series deficit and had two cracks at putting away a Kings team that eventually won the Stanley Cup. His upside is enormous. If Andersen falters at any point in the season and strings together a series of bad games, that’s the opportunity that Gibson will have to capitalize on, if it comes. Right now, the job is Andersen’s to lose. That doesn’t mean it’s his to keep for the rest of the season. This goaltending battle, in my mind, has only just begun.

2. With the Ducks shuffling out veterans like Teemu Selanne and bringing in new ones like Ryan Kesler and Dany Heatley, in addition to giving more time to some younger guys, can you sense any change in the team’s playing style, or is it more of the same?

JB: With the retirement of Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, as well as the departure of Daniel Winnik in free agency, the Ducks have gone to a youth movement. I feel that in this day and age, especially with the salary cap, it’s imperative that teams get solid production from their young players who are on cheaper deals. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli had major impacts for the Kings in last year’s Stanley Cup run. Chicago has young players such as Brandon Saad playing a big role on that team. The Ducks are looking for that sort of production from players such as Hampus Lindholm, who is on his entry-level deal. The Ducks also have a lot of young forwards, such as Jakob Silfverberg, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Emerson Etem, who need to really step up and have bigger roles on this team. The Ducks are top-heavy in terms of forwards with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler, but they need players to fill out the rest of their top-six so that those three do not have to carry the burden of scoring all the time.
I feel like the Ducks are a faster team after infusing more youth into the lineup, especially among their forward groups. Selanne, at age 43 last season, was not the same as “The Finnish Flash” used to be. Saku Koivu was not the greatest of skaters in terms of straight-line speed last season either. The departure of those two opened up spots for young players such as Smith-Pelly and William Karlsson to take.

Bruce Boudreau’s philosophy is pretty much the same as it always has been: try to roll four lines that can score. By adding Kesler, a true No. 2 centerman that this team hasn’t really had in years (it was only two years ago that Bruce Boudreau tried to move Bobby Ryan to the second-line center spot in order to try and balance out the scoring lines), the Ducks are a better team for it. The second line, regardless of who has skated with Kesler in the past five games, has looked really good and has held its own. Getzlaf and Perry are two of the game’s superstars and arguably the best 5-on-5 players in the game today. On the bottom six, the Ducks rotate in a lot of youth and role players, but almost all of them can be counted on to score when given the opportunity. I don’t feel that Boudreau’s philosophy has changed at all, but the team can play a bit of a faster game. They won’t be confused with a team like the Colorado Avalanche or Dallas Stars in transition, but they have a nice blend of speed, skill, and strength on their lines.

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3. Looking through the Ducks’ roster, the guy that immediately stands out as a little bit out of place would be 19-year-old Shea Theodore. Is there an expectation that he’s going to contribute in the NHL this year, or is it more likely that he’ll end up in juniors at some point?

JB: I’d be very surprised to see Shea Theodore in the NHL this season. The Ducks are already carrying eight defensemen (Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Lindholm, Francois Beauchemin, Clayton Stoner, Sami Vatanen, Bryan Allen, and Mark Fistric), and Theodore still needs to add a bit more polish to his game. He’s an electric skater and has the skills to be a really good power-play quarterback at the NHL level, but the Ducks already have a player like that in Vatanen this season. He’s on the roster because he suffered an injury, but once he recovers from his UCL sprain, he should be back in the AHL and working to develop his game for next season.
Beauchemin, Allen, and Sheldon Souray (who probably won’t dress for the Ducks at all this season after severe ligament damage in his wrist) are all unrestricted free agents after next season, which means there should be a great opportunity for Theodore to impress in camp and possibly push to make one of the six blue-line spots for 2015-2016. The Ducks could also look to add blue-line help right now, as they don’t have the true No. 1 defenseman that many teams in the Western Conference have (Duncan Keith in Chicago, Drew Doughty in Los Angeles, Marc-Edouard Vlasic in San Jose, Alex Pietrangelo in St. Louis, Ryan Suter in Minnesota, Shea Weber in Nashville). If the Ducks end up trying to make a move to upgrade their blue-line, which is the main weakness of this team, it’s possible that Theodore ends up being dangled as an intriguing piece in a package for such a player. Either way, I think that the September injury to Theodore ended any chance he had of being able to make an impact on the Ducks this year.

4. Lastly, can you give us an idea of how the recent injury to St. Louis native Pat Maroon is going to affect the Ducks?

JB: Oh man. I love Patrick Maroon: he’s one of the Ducks’ most important players, and that might surprise a lot of people, considering his lack of production on the stat sheet. He’s a physical player who makes a living in the dirty areas, winning loose puck battles in the corners and at the walls. He played like a man possessed the first few games of the season before getting hurt in the game against the Buffalo Sabres, and he’s been missed, both on the top-six and on the first power-play.
Maroon is so big and strong, and he’s a player who wins a lot of his puck battles. He then gets the puck to his centerman. He predominantly had a top-six role to start the season, and the goal of any team is to get the puck to its best playmakers. Maroon routinely got the puck to Getzlaf and Kesler, which is always a good thing: the Ducks can expect good things to happen if those two players (and Perry) have the puck on their stick more often.

Maroon is also an underrated playmaker. He has really soft hands at the front of the net, and he’s good at redirecting shots towards goal. He also has underrated ice vision, being able to make great passes to feed the puck to linemates for good scoring chances. For a player who is 6’3 and 230 lbs, people expect him to be an enforcer type. While Maroon is a very physical, in-your-face player who will not back down from anybody, he has to be more than just physical in today’s NHL to have a real niche and significant playing time. The era of the traditional NHL enforcer, in my mind, is basically over: intimidating players have to be able to do more than drop the gloves and keep a team honest, whether that is killing penalties or making plays. Maroon reminds me of a player who could end up becoming similar to what Milan Lucic is in Boston (but hopefully, without all the bad news headlines): he’s a big bodied player who can be physically imposing, but has the hockey sense and abilities to play and contribute at a top-six level in the NHL.
I think Maroon’s injury has been major for the Ducks. They haven’t played well in either of their games since he’s went down (against Philadelphia and Minnesota). While the Ducks have won both of those games, they haven’t had the puck as often, because there is arguably nobody on the Ducks who is better at winning puck battles than Maroon. As a result, they’ve been outplayed for severe stretches in both games, and are probably fortunate to have come away with wins in both: Andersen was spectacular in net for both, stopping 66 of 70 shots in the two games. The top-line hasn’t had the puck as often, and the power-play doesn’t sustain pressure in the offensive third as much as it did with him in the lineup. Maroon’s played well early, and despite what people may think of Heatley, I think that the top-line spot with Getzlaf and Perry is now Maroon’s job to lose.

Thanks to Jason for giving us a perspective from the opponent’s point of view.

After recording a regulation shutout on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings, Brian Elliott is supposed to step back between the pipes and start his fourth game of the season. Forward Paul Stastny will miss the game with an upper-body injury that he suffered against Phoenix. In his place, one of the Blues’ extra forwards, Chris Porter or Magnus Paajarvi, will be inserted in the lineup. With the team having played two games within a 23-hour period, it’s possible that both could play Sunday.

Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm is expected to make his NHL debut against Anaheim after being recalled from the AHL Chicago Wolves on Saturday. He’ll likely replace Jordan Leopold in the lineup.