Tonight the Nashville Predators (13-3-0, first place in the Central Division), travel to their second home rink in Anaheim to play the Ducks (7-8-3, sixth in the Pacific Division). Sweeping three games from the Ducks last season, the Predators have not lost to the Anaheim Ducks since game four of the 2017 Western Conference Finals.
Pekka Rinne may as well be the principal owner of the Anaheim Ducks. In each game last season, he posted a save percentage over .920 against the Ducks. Of course, he also shut down the Ducks’ offense in the 2017 playoff series...and the 2015 playoff series...and the 2011 playoff series...
This is the best rivalry in hockey right now. No two teams have such an unfiltered hatred for one another as the Ducks and Predators. This is the new Vancouver and Chicago rivalry. Let’s look at each of the two contestants.
The Anaheim Ducks
After a poor start to the season, the Ducks need to realize that every other game is not a game seven. John Gibson’s play is on another level, but nobody else is helping him out.
Well, nobody other than...(double checks notes)...Pontus Åberg?
Since giving in to the dark side of the force to revive his career, Pontus Åberg has scored five goals and six points in twelve games. He’s flourished so much with the Ducks that he’s quickly became a fan favorite over in the pond.
The rest of the team, other than Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silverberg, has not played inspiring hockey. Ryan Kesler, after returning from injury, only has five points in fifteen games. The Ducks owe him $6.875m for each of the next four seasons. For a guy who’s let Ryan Johansen get in his head so easily, that’s a lot of money.
The Ducks' defense has played poorly in front of Gibson, but it would be foolish to think that this rut is permanent. Other than that, Ryan Getzlaf still never really apologized for using a gay slur against a referee, so this is basically the same old team the Predators are used to beating, sans an injured Corey Perry.
The Nashville Predators
To say that I’ve been a critic of the Predators’ play this season is fair. At times, the Predators have had long stretches of uninspired hockey that has lacked creativity. The power play is atrocious, they take too many penalties, and they seem to generally do a poor job of setting up in an opponent’s zone.
Saturday was the best win of the season.
We saw a shade of James Neal’s Predators: back to the wall, down but never out. Down 3-1 to the Stars, we saw a team battle back to even the score. Dallas scored again to make it 4-3, but the Predators scored twice more to steal a win. There have been a lot of games this season where the Predators jump out to an early lead and play “good enough” hockey for the rest of the game to win, but Saturday felt like they activated that next level that this team has, something that we have not seen since, well, their last game against the Ducks.
The Predators can play with that tenacity and fury every night. The more it happens, the more of a habit it becomes. And you better believe that the Predators will bring their God-fearing anger to the Honda Center tonight.
Reasons to Watch
- No two teams hate each other more than the Ducks and the Predators. Watch how riled up all 7,000 empty seats get when a fight breaks out!
- Pekka Rinne is a Vezina-winning NHL goaltender. He’s playing a team that has, at best, been the Boomer to his Turbo Man for his entire career. Rinne’s level of play this season has also been exceptional. Expect a great game from him.
Instead of listing a third point, here are numerous moments from this rivalry that should get you hyped up for the game tonight (NSFW):
- Joey chirping Kesler
2. Kesler vs. Johansen fight.
3. “I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that.”
4. Joey doesn’t even do Kesler the honor of directly replying to his tweet this summer.
@RyanJohansen19 How’s summer training going? Want to meet me in the streets before we get going on the ice?— Ryan Kesler (@Ryan_Kesler) August 5, 2018
I'll pay for your parking— Ryan Johansen (@RyanJohansen19) August 6, 2018
5. Ritchie boards Viktor Arvidsson
6. Sportsnet discussion on Ryan Getzlaf not getting suspended for using a gay slur.
7. Nashville Predators Advance to Stanley Cup Finals
You may think I’d be eating duck. I don’t associate myself with dirty birds. Hot chicken and Nashville pride will be running through my stomach tonight.
Sights and Sounds
The game is in the Honda Center at 9:00ct. Fox Sports South will carry the game on TV and 102.5 The Game will have it on the air.