by Dan Adkisson
Come 7:30 PT on November 30, it will be time for another Freeway Faceoff — which can only mean one thing: the Anaheim Ducks going head to head with the LA Kings.
The clash will take place at Staples Center, home of the LA Kings, in the City of Angels. Fans can expect the match to be fast and furious. Below is a look ahead to the matchup, a review of both team’s collective history and performance so far, as well as a look at who the favorites to win the NHL season are.
Going head to head
The Anaheim Ducks will visit the LA Kings under the coaching of Dallas Eakins, who joined the team in 2015 after previously serving as the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers and the AHL San Diego Gulls. Their opponents will skate out onto the ice under the leadership of Todd McLellan, who joined the Kings franchise in 2019 and who, interestingly, also held the post of head coach for the Edmonton Oilers, which he did for more than three seasons.
This won’t be the only match in the battle for Los Angeles. This season began on October 12, and is still in its infancy, but there will be more games played between the two throughout the year; which will provide the losing side their chance at revenge, a dish best served cold, in February.
What fans can be sure of is a riveting encounter. A look back at the history of their matchups reveals the Ducks to be the slightly more dominant. Having played a total of 152 games against their LA rivals, Anaheim has won 73, lost 52 and tied 11. The Kings certainly won’t be a fan of those stats and will be looking to add to the Ducks loss column.
How are the teams faring so far?
The Ducks have been neither disappointing fans badly, nor whipping them up into a frenzy with their performance so far this season. The team has won 4 and lost 7 (including three losses outside of regulation), and their performance away from home is the most troubling, as they’ve posted just a single win out of three tries on the road.
Scoring has been a concern for the team. Last season, the Ducks offense was last in the league by averaging just 2.21 goals per game.
The power play is another area Anaheim has targeted as room for improvement. Just like their overall scoring, their power play was also last in the NHL in the 2020-21 season, with a mere 11 goals. Young players could be the key to boost the team’s power play and scoring.
Despite needing to up their game in some areas, perhaps the Ducks will take comfort in the fact that the Kings also have their fare share of issues to resolve. Out of 10 games in the league so far, the team has only won four, each of which has been at their home arena. They’re still searching for their first win of the season on the road.
The play of goaltender Cal Petersen is likely going to be of the key factors in LA’s success this season. Many believe he’s the goaltender of the future. Yet, this season he must fulfil that prophecy and take over the starting job. Meanwhile, the young defensive players in front of him must mature out there on the big stage.
Just like the Ducks, the Kings have had issues with scoring, especially when it’s five-on-five, but the team will be hoping the addition of Viktor Arvidsson will change that as the season wears along. Arvidsson was a two-time 30-goal scorer for the Nashville Predators and is looking to pounce on any goal-scoring opportunities.
NHL popularity and favorites to win
It’s fast and gritty, but hockey isn’t quite as big as some of the other sports in the U.S., such as the NFL. That could change, however. The league has expanded in 2021, thanks to the addition of the Seattle Kraken, and as different continents contribute more players to the sport, international interest is growing. Soon, with a new TV deal in place, more U.S. fans will be glued closely to their sets when hockey is on.
Some fierce rivalries will certainly help boost the popularity of the sport. One of the best known is the Boston Bruins vs.the Toronto Maple Leafs. These are two of the original six teams in the NHL and both have a passionate, proud fan base. Several series of playoffs between the two sides have gone the distance.
And now that several states including New Jersey have legalized sports betting, many will be keen to lay wagers on the league now that it’s under way and the odds have been set. Despite being the defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t the favorites. The Colorado Avalanche are the bookmakers’ favorites to skate away clutching the Stanley Cup. The “Rolling Snow” feature at around +475 on the betting lines.
The Lightning were joint second favorites with the Vegas Golden Knights for the trophy, but both have dropped to +900 on the betting lines. The Florida Panthers have happily stepped in to fill that second-place void, with +800 on the betting lines, which is still a considerable way behind the favorites. Completing the top five are the Carolina Hurricanes, sitting on the betting lines with around +1000.
The NHL is well under way, and the days will surely fly by rapidly by until the LA Kings clash with their local nemesis, the Anaheim Ducks. Both have poor odds of winning the Stanley Cup this season, but when the two teams face each other, they typically put on an encounter every bit as enthralling as the Stanley Cup playoffs.