This season is going to look like this: win one, lose one. All the talk of rivalries and series is going to come down to a lot of .500 hockey as teams split series with opponents, nullifying the supposed “four-point games”.
Only minor proof is available thus far, it is true, but witness what happened to the two SoCal teams tonight (Sunday) for evidence. The Ducks took Arizona 3-1 and the Kings defeated the St. Louis Blues by a 6-3 margin. This puts LA and Anaheim, not to mention in-state rival San Jose, at precisely .500, despite all the worrying and wrangling that has gone into the first 10 days of the season. Colorado, by the way, is also .500, standing directly above those three Cali teams in the overall rankings in the West. Out front of the Division—Vegas, with surprise Minnesota in second and St. Louis in third. But the points spread is 10-8-7 amongst them and then 6’s across the board for Colorado down to San Jose and then 5 for Arizona. In other words, most teams are exactly in stasis.
The Ducks entered the night having taken Colorado to OT on Friday in Anaheim. They lost that game 3-2. Sunday for a 5pm start, they ripped an early goal, Henrique winning a faceoff and Silfverberg scoring on a surprise launch of the puck up and over goalie Philipp Grubaur. This was at 58 seconds. They padded that lead midway through the game when Rakell scored at 9:05 of period two.
In the meantime, it was John Gibson highlight-reel time, as he moved from side to side in the net to defeat a number of Colorado tries. Midway through the game, the shots were 17-8 in favor of the Avalanche. They would end 33-15 (you read that right), a pathetic number for Anaheim but a tally that didn’t matter with Gibson’s fortress-like play. That total came on a tally of just one SOG in period three.
Colorado didn’t record their goal until there were about five minutes left in the third, and Anaheim got a third goal to seal it at 3-1 with 1:40 left in the game. That was Lindholm’s second of the year, into an empty net.
If you’re reading that right, you’ll see that all the people who need to be on the scoresheet were—aside from goal scorers Silfverberg and Rakell, who each notched their first of the year, Lindholm got one from the blueline and assists went to Henrique ad Getzlaf, amongst others.
Rakell said after, “I’m kind of relieved to get that first goal out of the way, and I’m going to try to help our team win.” He also noted that his Captain and linemate on this night, Getzlaf, is “still one of the best passers in the game.” Getzlaf has assists in the past two games. That line, the first, is Rakell, Getzlaf, and Max Jones. Jones played just 10:52, which is not so surprising when you see Getzlaf’s number: 10:58. The offensive leader in ice time was Henrique at 14:30.
The unlikely leader of Anaheim in scoring points is Carter Rowney, with four assists. Max Comtois has three goals, matched with no helpers.
Coach Eakins said that after Rakell’s goal, he went down to the player on the bench and said, “See, you can still score.” The nervous laugh after he said this was intended for—irony? He added, “But any time players like that can score a goal it is just a massive weight lifted off their shoulders, and they carry it because they care, and they carry it because there’s an expectation there. We’re real glad to see those guys score.”
John Gibson was once again stellar in net, recording 32 saves for the Ducks. Good thing, because the team has fewer goals by far than any other team in the West. Anaheim has scored 11 times. The next lowest total of goals is 17, held by St. Louis and Arizona. LA leads the West (yes, this is a weird year) with 20, but they’ve also given up 20 goals, to rest at even in goal differential.
Eakins was also clear in his praise for Lindholm. “This kid wasn’t fooling around. He was training super hard and very efficiently” on the long break the team just had, not making the playoffs. “He wants to get better everyday, and it’s paying off with his play. He has been really, really good here the last few games. It’s great when you see a young man with that much confidence. He closes so quickly, and he’s physical.”
Good perspective, but what matters is the big picture: the Ducks grabbed three of four possible points versus AZ, and they have points in four of their last five games. Of their play Sunday evening, Coach Dallas Eakins said, “There were times when we got hemmed in by [Arizona’s] skill, but the guys stayed positive through it. I liked the energy, the chatter on the bench. I thought we were physical at the right times, and obviously our goaltender was excellent.”
The Ducks now head to Arizona for two games, Tuesday and Thursday, before returning home to host the Blues.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the PHWA and a credentialed NHL media member. For the duration of the pandemic, he is reporting on Ducks and Kings hockey from his home in SoCal using NHL-supplied media information.