The Anaheim Ducks put their unlikely 3-0-0 start to the season on the line against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. The Ducks aren’t expected to compete for much this season, but you wouldn’t know it by their opening statement in the 2019-20 campaign. Is that indicative of what’s to come for the Ducks?
No. People love to overreact this early in the season and put teams on a pedestal when they shouldn’t be, or conversely, there’s the opposite when people criticize the teams that have gotten off to a slow start. The Ducks are probably one of those squads where people are getting too excited over them. That’s not to say the Ducks can’t have a good season, though. But getting into the playoffs isn’t going to be easy.
The Penguins have gotten off to a slow start with a record of 1-2-0 in their first three games. It was down, up, and then down again for the Pens. Their lone win is a 7-2 blowout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. We were able to cash the Jets over the Pens in their most recent matchup so no complaints there. Pittsburgh struggled without Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad. They will have to get used to it, especially Malkin who will be on the shelf a while.
Reports are suggesting that Phil Kessel would have stayed in Pittsburgh if it weren’t for friction between he and Malkin. Kessel is with the Coyotes and Malkin is injured, so it’s been a loss either way you look at it for the Penguins. The Pens must keep their head above water while Malkin and Bjugstad are absent. It doesn’t leave much depth at centre, and another injury, would leave the Pens in dire straits. They will be looking for a better effort against the Ducks at home tonight. Head below for our free Ducks vs. Penguins pick.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick
Anaheim have looked impressive with wins over the Coyotes, Sharks, and Red Wings. It’s best to be cautious with the Ducks, though. The Coyotes and Red Wings weren’t playoff teams a season ago and the Sharks have looked terrible. San Jose are still searching for their first win of the season after losing again on Tuesday night in Nashville. The Ducks were also fortunate to catch the Sharks on a back-to-back in that one.
The play of the defence and John Gibson between the pipes has been the most impressive part of their 3-0-0 start. They’ve allowed just 1 goal in each game, which gives Gibson a nice 1.00 GAA and 0.97 save percentage. That’s not going to hold, but it’s nevertheless a promising sign for Gibson. Dating back to last season, the Ducks have won six games in a row, so we’ve been seeing some of the youngsters contribute when given the chance in Anaheim.
The Ducks’ most recent showing against the Penguins was a game that got away from Gibson. He allowed 6 goals on 35 shots to take a 7-4 loss this past January. Matt Murray hasn’t been too sharp against the Ducks in his career, though. He’s posted a 3.34 GAA and 0.887 save percentage in three outings against the Ducks. With the injury report growing larger for the Pens, Murray is likely to be under fire again tonight.
Pittsburgh got some more bad news on Wednesday regarding injuries. Two key contributors, forward Patric Hornqvist and Alex Galchekyuk didn’t appear at practice and have been confirmed as out for Thursday night. Along with the Malkin and Bjugstad injuries, those are four contributors that are gone for the Pens. It would be tough for any team to overcome injuries like that. The Penguins are without four forwards going into tonight.
Despite the 7-4 in their most recent meeting against the Pens, the Ducks have had some success against the Penguins. They’re winners in three of the last four meetings. For the Ducks’ nice start, give a lot of credit to new head coach Dallas Eakins. The team is responding to his message and it has translated to wins on the ice. Gibson is playing well and it should benefit him to play a Pens team without much depth. With injuries mounting for the Pens, the Ducks look like tremendous value on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.