Ducks fans aren’t typically an incredibly noisy bunch. That’s not a knock. They just like to enjoy their hockey with a little bit of a demure demeanor. But when the Kings come to town, look out. Take Sunday night. Iven though the arena in Anaheim wasn’t full when the first announcements started and the duck showed up to skate around, boy, was it noisy.
More so when the Ducks were on a power play and during a pause, an image of a Kings-clad cartoon figure appeared on the big screen . Shortly thereafter, a train came zooming by, obliterating him. It was a commuter train with a Ducks logo on the side. The emotion elevated.
All fun and games, right? In fact, the arena was not as overtaken as it has been in the past when the Kings have been in town. There’s been such a din in there that it was almost impossible to hear yourself no matter which team was doing what on the ice. This night was slightly more sedate when the Kings were doing good things, but louder when the Ducks were up on the play than it typically is.
As for the lineups, the Ducks scratched Andersen after starting him for two straight games on Wednesday and Friday, both wins. The reason was cited as an upper-body injury. One press wag said he thought it was “torn heartilage,” while another suspected the fact that a trade might be coming. Bad idea that would be, unless what was coming back was something pretty special. The tandem idea has been working awfully well for Anaheim in the later days (say, since Christmas).
The Ducks also had their new forward, David Perron, in the lineup. He was right where the guy he was traded for, Karl Hagelin, used to be, alongside Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg on the second line, at least early on.
The only other change amongst Ducks forwards was that Chris Stewart was in for Juri Sekac, who had logged just seven minutes on Friday night. Stewart was on the fourth line with Maroon and Santorelli. Maroon contributed in the form of a fight with McNabb of the Kings, and Stewart tried to do the same, cross-checking Luke Schenn of the Kings at the center line, repeatedly. All he got for his trouble was a two-minute, entirely unnecessary, penalty.
The Ducks made one change on their backline, with Stoner out with a hip problem. In his place was Korbinian Holzer, who has played spottily this year, with his most recent stint being three games before sitting the last three.
The Kings of course had Quick in net. Who else would it be? Their backup? It’s been so long since he’s played most fans don’t remember his name. (Enroth, Jonas. I just looked it up.)
On defense they had one switch from Saturday afternoon, which was that Christian Ehrhoff was sitting while Jamie McBain was playing. No big deal. And on forward, it looks on paper like nothing much has changed, with just one switch: Andreoff in and Nick Shore out.
But that’s why I’m at the games, right? To watch these things for you and report to you, because one switch was only the start. In fact, every line was jumbled from what it had been Saturday. No wonder, too, because Sutter variously said (and here I paraphrase) that his team was poor, nobody got things going, and that they hadn’t been playing right for a few games now.
So with no time to, in his words, “get your nose rubbed in it,” since there were but 29 hours between games for LA this weekend, what could he do but line juggle?
Here’s what he showed in the early going: Gaborik and Lecavalier were with Brown, where Saturday it had been Lewis. King and Carter were with Lewis, where Saturday it had been Pearson. Nolan was with Pearson and Andreoff, where Saturday it had been Nolan, Shore, and Brown.
Put it another way: Brown moved up from line four, Lewis moved up from line three, and Pearson moved down from line two. What was the same? Line one, with Kopitar, Toffoli, and Lucic playing together as they had been.
Did it work? Well, the first period saw the Ducks control things early, especially on the strength of a power play. They didn’t generate a lot of shots, though, either then or as the frame wore on. It ended with the Kings at seven and Ducks at five. That’s because as the period went on, LA got stronger, both in puck possession and defense.
However, there was a spectacular save, actually two, by Quick which kept the score at zeros. On the first, he stuck a leg out shorthanded and kept Getzlaf from getting a rebound, literally gluing the leg to the ice while in full splits. Leg strength, thy name is Jonathan.
The second great save was off a play where Corey Perry held the puck while skating backwards behind the net and fed it out to Rakell, who slammed a shot that Quick got caught under him.
The period was knotted at zero with the Kings having enjoyed a short power play and about to get another minute and a half extra man time when P2 began.
They used it, Lecavalier scoring his second goal with the team (he also tallied yesterday) off assists from Carter and Martinez. It was pretty, like yesterday’s goal, though of a different sort. This time, the puck came down low, and he picked it up, spun around after being backwards in front of the net, and slid the puck under Gibson, who was going for a poke check.
After the game, IH got to put a couple of questions to Lecavalier, and here’s what he said about how he’s doing. “I’m feeling good. Yesterday it was just nice to get that first one out of the way, but uh, of course, there’s a lot of guys on this team who could do that, I’m sure. It was a long time since I scored, and it’s just nice to get it in, you know. It builds on confidence. Even tonight, I felt my, after something good happens, your confidence builds. You hold the puck a little longer, you make better decisions, and I think I want to try, it’s only been five games, but I’m going to try to build on that. I still have to get better, you know, but every game is high tempo, a great hockey game, and a lot of fun, for sure, to be able to play.”
The Ducks got the goal back, in a theme which has played out several times in SoCal this week, with a tally that came so fast the announcer just barely had time to announce the prior one. This one came off a flip wrister from the point by Shea Theodore which was redirected by Rakell on its way to the net. Odd play, too, because Rakell literally reached his stick out behind him with one hand to get a piece of it. Quick knew it, making a kind of “well, you got me on that one” gesture as he looked out at the slot to where the redirection had happened.
The teams played pretty even hockey through the middle of the period, with the one notable shift being where Kopitar held the puck essentially for a minute, passing it up to the point at one point and being in front to take a rebound and put if off Gibson’s pads and then control it again as it went behind the net.
On the next shift, Lecavalier teed up a knuckle slapshot that went end-over-end to the net, dipping as it got to Gibson and almost fooling him. It looked more spectacular when shown on replay even.
But nobody scored until the Kings had a puck ping-pong around in front of the net and get Gibson leaning first one way and the other before ending up on the ice. It then went to Toffoli at the right side of the net, and he flipped it to the crease, getting exactly what he was hoping for in the form of Sami Vatanen attempting to play goalie and having it go in off his sweater. As he stood parallel to the goal line.
The Kings added another with 2:20 to go when Lucic put a puck to the point and McNabb zinged in a wrister that Kopitar redirected from about three feet in front of the goalie, sending the puck on an angle and right between the tiniest hole possible—I mean, physics couldn’t make this any more impossible—as the five-hole started to close. It was also the sign that the Kings were starting to take over, as they had moved from 12 shots to 19 while the Ducks moved up from 13 to 15 over the same period of time.
So two periods ended with the LA team up by two goals, 3-1, and the Ducks pressing as the period wound down, holding the puck in the LA end. For Anaheim, every point is important. They can afford to lose, if you follow my logic from my story the other night, but ten games of their last 40, and so they looked to come out in period three with a push, given the two-goal deficit.
One other thing to note here: Boudreau said before the game that he wasn’t sure where Perron would go. In fact, he commented in the opposite vein, focused more on who will replace Hagelin on a second line which had began to play well on both ends of the ice, according to media reports.
Perron slotted in early on the second line, as noted earlier. How’d he do? Well, in period three, with yet a couple of new line combos, he got the Ducks to within one goal on a wrist shot that came after Getzlaf dropped him a pass. He shot from just inside the blueline, and the goalie, standing upright, clearly didn’t even see the puck.
He was playing by that time with Getzlaf and Stewart, while Perry had Maroon and Rakell with him. It stayed that way all third period.
After the game, coach Boudreau said of the goal, “You can tell he’s got skill. I mean the shot he took was a skilled shot, so I look for bigger things from him.” He later added, “Guys who are used to scoring, they know what to do. They don’t take time. They get it, and they get if off their stick, and that’s why they score. The quickness is what usually gets the goalies, and I know that Quick didn’t see his shot at all.”
The Ducks were in full press mode all third period to try to tie the game. Boudreau mixed his lines considerably, which, he said after, still was disappointing, since nothing worked. He was mildly critical of his goaltending, also, but he stopped short of what he seemed to want to say when asked about Gibson. “What do you want me to say? They scored three goals, they only had 25 shots. It wasn’t a lot of work. I mean, we put one of the goals in ourselves.”
When asked a question by another reporter, he said, “Gibby did a fine job tonight. They got some fluky goals, and I’m not going to blame him. We had opportunities with open nets to tie it and we didn’t, and they get an opportunity, and they bury it.”
As for the overall message, it was, “Put our work boots on tomorrow.” But he also said that people shouldn’t read into the way things are going in minute detail at this stage of the year. The team dug a hole early, he pointed out, and now it’s not fair now to look at every break as crucial or heartrending. “We dug our hole, so now that it looks, as the season goes on, every time there’s a bad break, you don’t want to get into a ‘woe is me;’ you’ve just got to forget it and get back at it.”
This was, oddly enough since both teams are in the second half of their schedules, their first meeting this year. Last year, the Ducks were 4-0-1 against the Kings, with two of the games being shootout affairs.
Both teams remain at home through midweek, with the Ducks hosting Minnesota Wednesday before going on the road for three and LA playing at home on Tuesday (Dallas) and Thursday (Minnesota) before two games on the road.
The Ducks will soon find a crowd forming in the defensive end of the lineup. Cam Fowler is skating after missing ten games and counting with a knee injury. Simon Despres (concussion) is on a conditioning stint in the AHL San Diego to get ready for his NHL return. Stoner is out with an aggravated hip flexor, as alluded to above, but in the Perron trade, the Ducks got Adam Clendening in the Perron trade, and he will remain in town as insurance, then, most likely, get shipped to the Gulls.
As for Andersen, “I think he’s getting better quickly,” the Anaheim coach said.
For me, twitter is @growinguphockey. I’ve written a bunch of hockey books, so check one out, please!