Well, so much for my fancy theories. I thought I was speaking the truth when I said that the Kings and Ducks would show their true levels when playing common opponents this week. And I was right in the first instance—the Ducks lost to the Islanders, but the Kings beat that team. This is how things should play out, if you believe the line that the Kings are strong in their rebuild and the Ducks have had their flurry of youthful success and are now settling back to their real level.
But against Boston, it all reversed. The Kings had a disastrous 0-7 Monday night score against the B’s. They got nothing going. They never came close to breaking the shutout of Jeremy Swayman. So if Boston went to Anaheim and dominated, it would still be possible to think me right. But if Boston went to Anaheim and lost, all my wisdom would go down the drain.
It didn’t start well for me. The Ducks got up 3-1 in period one on an early Rakell goal and then two more, punctuated by a 1-1 tying marker by Nick Foligno. Foligno was a busy man, having garnered a fighting major at 2:20, serving his five, and scoring a minute or so later. Maybe it was all the rest to start the game. Sam Carrick was the other combatant, btw.
So Anaheim was out ahead of me after one period. Could they keep the lead? The second period started with an O-zone penalty by Derek Grant. Shorthanded, the Ducks’ goalie made a good save going right to left to keep the game 3-1 for the Ducks.
The Ducks later blew a PP chance on which two different Bruins had sticks broken. The culprit: too much passing.
The only scoring in period two was Brandon Carlo, about midway, to get it to 3-2 for Boston. It squirted between Gibson’s arm and body and was possibly deflected before doing so. Gibson cannot be faulted for anything that got by him, and the opposite is also true—he beat guys to make saves that shouldn’t have been saves. For instance, Foligno had a point-blank chance late in period two and Gibson made the save. He did it again with about 40 seconds to go in P2 on a wrap-around chance against him.
Along the way in P2, the Ducks showed their game plan plainly: rush the puck. Two of their three goals came on a bang-bang rush chance. Linus Ullmark was the goaltender for the B’s, and he had no chance on these, save having not given up the rebounds in the first place. So through two, my predictions were nullified, as the Ducks were showing their strength.
It was all off with less than two minutes gone in period three, as David Pasternak pounded one that went off a couple of guys on the way past John Gibson.
Was my theory on again? Just to remind you, that would mean that the Ducks would wither under the onslaught of a stronger team. With 3-3 the score and 12 minutes left, it would seem not. The Ducks were holding their own. Now the test would be whether they would manage to regain the lead, or wilt under the Bruins’ attack.
You know already what happened. The Ducks won 4-3 in regulation time. What doesn’t add up is the speed, or lack thereof, of play in the last half of the last period. Who should have been tired? Boston. Who played the more sluggish half? The Ducks. But the Ducks got that crucial goal.
First, the Ducks almost did it, with Terry finding Henrique in the slot for a point-blank chance with a couple of minutes left. Ullmark came up with the save.
Then Anaheim got a bit of a lucky break—you make your own luck, right?—inside of two minutes. Heck, inside of one: Getzlaf got inside position on McAvoy, who took a penalty to give Anaheim a last-minute chance, and they took advantage. 21.6 seconds were left when Zegras won it for Anaheim, or scored the one that would eventually win it, 4-3.
How? Three way passing ended up on Zegras’s stick in the high left slot. He rifled a wrister with Sonny Milano in front, and it eluded the goalie. He said after, “Obviously that was a big game for us, and I thought the power play was great, and it was definitely nice to get a win on home ice.”
So what does this tell us about what’s to come? With this many games left (27 for the Ducks), should the playoffs be the conversation every night? No, and yes. No in the sense that players can’t be on point every moment every day for months on end. Yes in the sense that it’s kind of now or never, most especially in the West, where both everybody and nobody seems anxious to take the points.
Zegras ended up with two points, and he added, “That was a really good Boston team, and they played yesterday, so we wanted to get on then early and get pucks to the net, and I think we did a great job of that.”
Was this enough to show that Anaheim’s youth will carry them? Probably an overstatement if you said so, but a sign nonetheless that if you’re on and you keep the pressure up, good things will happen.
When asked to pick out someone who stood out, Coach Eakins after the game rather pointed to each line, naming each individually. “Everyone did a great job,” he started before describing the various trios and working his way to the defense. He even mentioned goalie John Gibson, who faced 32 shots in giving up three goals.
The Ducks await Vegas at home on Friday night. Boston might have softened them up, visiting Thursday.
Ryan Getzlaf ended the night with three assists.
The Ducks first and last goals were on the power play. They were 2/3 with the man advantage on the night.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association