SoCal Gets a Second Lombardi

The Ducks made the Dvorak trade mid-week, which has been detailed here at IH. They also made a trade for Matthew Lombardi, who came over from Phoenix, as is well known. What might be less well remembered is that Lombardi was with Nashville in 2010-11, a stint that went just two games because he suffered a concussion during the preseason. It was not his first. Derian Hatcher of the Red Wings elbowed him to the head and put him out of the 2004 playoffs. He has spent most of his career with Calgary and Phoenix, where he has been twice.

The Ducks traded Brandon McMillan, who is 23, for the veteran. Lombardi is 31. He was drafted in 2000. The thing is, due to injury, he has not played as many games as you might imagine. His total after Friday night was 530. Checking his career injury history indicates a long litany of medical interventions. Aside from the concussions, there are upper body injuries, lower body injuries, and arm injury, and a sprained ankle which cost nearly one-third of a season.

So the question for the Ducks is what do you do with the guy? Check that. He’s in Anaheim for a reason, obviously, or they wouldn’t have given up the speedy McMillan to get him, though McMillan, to be frank, hasn’t showed the same promise he did early. He had 21 points in 60 games in 2010-11, but last year he managed no goals and four assists in 25 games. This year he had played six games with the Ducks and had an assist before he was shipped off.

Thus far this year, Lombardi has played 22 games between Phoenix and Anaheim. He had four goals and four assists with the Coyotes. Friday night, he found himself on a line with Teemu Selanne and Daniel Winnik, and in a number of other combinations and situations. It was that kind of night for Anaheim.

The Ducks’ lineup was a bit of a mishmash compared to what it has been, but it looked like it on Friday did for two primary reasons. First, Ryan Getzlaf is out, having suffered a slash to the ankle against the Stars Wednesday. He returned to score a goal and then did not finish the game. Afterwards, the coach said he was sore, but would be OK. He also said in the media late in the week that Getzlaf would play Friday, but no go.

The other thing about the lineup is that Dallas is not a huge threat. Though they didn’t look like a team that was out of it entirely, on paper, where few games are actually ever played, they look like they’re done. So why rush the Captain back? And why stress your stars?

By my tally, thus, the Ducks did not roll their star youngsters, Ryan and Perry, who were playing with Koivu, until 3:53 of period one. Before that, fans saw the line Lombardi was on, plus two other trios: Steckel, Cogliano, and Beleskey; and Palmieri, Holland, and Etem. If you’re paying attention to what’s happened this week with the Ducks, you’ll note that the shifts in lines are almost total.

Just for instance, on Wednesday night, the lines had Winnik playing with Koivu and Dvorak. Etem was with Cogliano and Selanne. The three big guns, Perry, Getzlaf, and Ryan were together. Sitting out was Steckel. So if you do that math on that, you’re going to discover that no two players other than Perry and Ryan were playing together Friday night who were together on Wednesday.

But to get back to Lombardi, early on, he was with Selanne and Winnik.

As the game went on, the lines shifted, and Lombardi found himself playing with Etem and Perry. Continuity of the lines was disrupted in late period one and in the second because both the Stars and the Ducks took penalties, one after another after another. Lombardi, not familiar with the way the Ducks kill penalties, was thus used less in the later stages of the game. But the interesting outcome of this was that he played in the late stages of the second period with Perry and Ryan, Koivu having just finished up a long shift on the power play.

He played 12:38 minutes and recorded a shot, a hit, a takeaway, and two of three faceoffs won. Not too bad on a night when the Ducks were off their game. His backchecking was tenacious and evident, and when the puck was in his own zone, he diligently stayed close in to the net, breaking up at least one play where Dallas had beaten the Ducks’ defense going from behind the net to the front.

Of further interest—Lombardi did get time on the power play. His first opportunity was an important one. The Stars took a penalty with about five minutes left in period two, and the second power play unit was Souray and Fowler with Etem, Palmieri, and Lombardi. They did not generate a chance, but they held the puck in the Dallas zone for a long while. Lombardi kept it low on the boards, and fed it out front to Palmieri, whose stick was checked before he could get off a good shot. Unfortunately, the group also got caught out, with the Stars rushing it back down the ice to get a three-on-one. Lombardi charged back with his head down, and the play broke up with a shot that went into the netting.

In truth, however, no matter how well the new guy did, this was not a good night for the Ducks. They were beaten for three goals in the first period, though they answered the first one directly off the ensuing faceoff. The second goal was shorthanded, and twice more with the man down, they let the Stars behind them and into their zone for chances. The third goal was a two-on-one where the defense just flat got left behind. Right after that, the Ducks’ Souray took a boarding penalty.

Hence you had the combination of odd line mixing, slow defense, and needless penalties creating a situation where the Ducks came out of the frame down 3-1 and outshot 15-9. The second period ended the same, but with the shots at 18 for the home side, 22 visitors.

The third saw Lombardi make one of the more spectacular plays of the evening. He stripped the puck from Brenden Dillon at the Dallas blueline and took it right in on net. It happened so fast and the skill he displayed with the puck was so great that I mistook him for number 9, rather than 19. That’s Bobby Ryan, naturally. He deked in on goal, but Lehtonen got the puck under his pad.

Lombardi discussed the miss after the game. “I got a chance, there, and I didn’t capitalize on it. You’ve got to bury those ones,” he said.

It was just one near-miss of the frame. The Ducks had earlier fired a puck that bounced way high and came down but didn’t go in. Then Selanne zoomed in from the right side and fired a low wrister that beat the goalie under his pad, but went out the other side, still at speed, and hit the post on the goaltender’s right side, Selanne’s left.

One other interesting little wrinkle regarding Lombardi: midway through period three, Steckel was out with Selanne and Beleskey to take a faceoff in the Ducks’ zone. As soon as he won it and the puck cleared the zone, he jumped onto the bench and Lombardi came on to replace him. The faceoff percentages of Lombardi and Steckel respectively, were 43.9% on 180 draws and 52.7% on 186 coming into the evening.

So with a decent performance turned in and a fairly diverse resume of accomplishments, on the night, what’s the assessment?

His coach was rather lukewarm in his discussion of the player after the game. He cited several misses the team had including Lombardi’s breakaway. Then when asked more particularly about the new acquistion, he said, “He’s tentative. He made plays. He is what he is, and we knew what we were getting there. So, he was fine. He’s adjusting into the group.”

IH asked Lombardi about his play, particularly the multiple combinations he found himself a part of. “I think being down like that, we were just trying to make anything happen, get some combinations, so, you know, obviously, getting behind early kind of changes the way we wanted to stay, obviously.”

Lombardi is soft-spoken, nervous. His answers sometimes disappear as he looks to the ground and swallows his words.

He went on: “I mean it’s fine. Coaches, um, you know, went through everything with me yesterday and today, system-wise, and I felt like I, uh, I knew what I needed to know. Just kind of getting into the groove out there, trying to get some confidence, and obviously some guys, but the guys have been great, helping me out out there, so it’s been alright.” That’s transcribed as accurately as it can be given the soft voice he offers his answers in.

Read this how you want it, but it looked to me like an undersell, both on his part, and on the coach’s. What happens in the next month (or two or three), then, will have to inspire more confidence if the club is to keep him long-term. He’s costing $3.5 million and is UFA after the year is up.

To round out the game, the Ducks controlled the play in period three, outpacing the Stars in shots 26-24 by the 13-minute mark (the period started 22-18 for Dallas), but they took penalties in the late going which made it impossible for them to get even a goal back. The game ended with Dallas on the power play for a final time and the score still at 3-1. The shots were Dallas 25, the Ducks 28.

Ducks Notes

Hiller was unavailable to play due to illness. The team got its minor league goalie into town just in time. A former ECHL and roller hockey goalie had been signed to a one-day deal to sit on the bench just in case.

The coach said after the game that while Sunday’s contest with LA is important, he will not rush Getzlaf back into the lineup. He doesn’t want an injury that lingers. “We want to be 100%,” he said.

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One Response to “SoCal Gets a Second Lombardi”

  1. Chris
    April 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    Loved your take on Lombardi. Been a huge fan of this guy for many years, and his acquisition by Anaheim (my local and favorite team) affords me the opportunity to closely study his play over the next couple of weeks. Anaheim was looking for that second line center, somebody who can keep up and feed fast shooters like Selanne, Etem, Cogliano. I believe Lombardi’s strengths compliment what the Ducks were looking for, IF he can stay healthy. His speed, clean passes, ability to find open ice, and fast hands will hopefully mesh with the team’s different skill set under Boudreau. And, I believe Lombardi’s tendency to slip away from the limelight, quietly working hard on second and third lines, will mesh with the personality of the group. I mean, he’s not the guy to cause trouble in the locker room. Undoubtedly, it’s been difficult for him having been traded three times in one season. I’m very curious to see how the next couple of games play out. I hope we find him as useful to us going into the postseason as we may be to his career.