Remember the Mighty Ducks movies as a kid, Golden Knight fans? For millennials, this was a part of Disney's stranglehold on our childhood. Countless memories such as the "Flying V" and the "Knuckle Puck" flooded our young minds. Of course, Disney was also the primary owner of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the NHL during our youth. Their goal? Pump out merchandise for their hockey team and expand their global reach.
The tenure was a bit lukewarm, with the Mighty Ducks only making one Stanley Cup Finals appearance (they did win a World Series with the Anaheim Angels, though). That was behind Jean-Sebastian Giguere's stellar performance, where he even won the Conn Smythe despite being on the losing side. Still, Orange County's hockey team has a special place in the hearts of California hockey fans everywhere, both with the squad and the movies based on them.
Now? They're the Anaheim Ducks and they have a Stanley Cup in their trophy case (2006-2007 against the Ottawa Senators). However, the current team hasn't been too good lately, with a postseason drought currently spanning five seasons. The Ducks' young core is hoping to change all that, although Vegas looks to continue its stranglehold on the Pacific Division.
So you want a Duck to watch for? The obvious player to watch for is Trevor Zegras. The franchise star is returning from a lower-body injury and has ridiculous handles. Whether he can pull a Michigan on an opposing goaltender or chip-shot it from behind, Zegras is the real deal.
Fortunately for Vegas, they play a physical style on defense. From their forecheck creating turnovers to knocking their opponents into the boards (Vegas is second in the NHL with 685 team hits), the Golden Knights can take Zegras out of the equation. Stick to your game plan and you'll win.
Vegas must also stop the onslaught of shots from coming in. Currently, Vegas is allowing the tenth-most shots on goal with 1,053. In the past two seasons, Zegras has had a shot percentage over 12%. If the Boston University alum runs wild in the shot column, that could spell trouble for the Golden Knights.
That's especially true given the goaltender situation. The Golden Knights must get back to taking away shooting lanes and creating turnovers. Jiri Patera can't do it all by himself and it showed against the Florida Panthers on Saturday. He stopped 42 shots in the 4-2 loss and became overwhelmed during the second period and beyond.
The road game after the Christmas break is winnable for Vegas. Anaheim has also slumped, losing seven of their last ten games. The Ducks are young and inexperienced, allowing the Knights to capitalize with their experience. Plus, the Golden Knights get a longer rest, a chance for them to recuperate and clear their minds.
Besides, Vegas was in the same situation last season. They got off to a hot start, only to cool off because of a break to the mean and injuries. The Golden Knights went on to win the Stanley Cup, kickstarted by a 7-2 thumping on February 12. Their opponent? The Anaheim Ducks.
(Stats provided by StatMuse)