Jared Spurgeon Stock photo

A Big Stop Sign

The Anaheim Ducks came into their Thursday game at home versus Minnesota having lost a game 3-2 after gaining a win in a 1-0 shutout. Their secret weapon—not so secret when the only reason the team wins is that he allows zero goals—John Gibson was back in net. And before a period was done, he was down 2-0 with the Ducks being outshot 8-0. Their first real chance to score came with a two-man advantage, but even that yielded a couple of shots and nothing more. The period would end 9-3, Minnesota shots advantage.

Despite what it sounds like, the Ducks weren’t that bad. They had a couple of chances early  that did not yield official shots on goal. They weren’t totally broken down on the goals scored against them. But their problem remained what it has been, namely that they just can’t score. They did miss nine shots in period one.

In their division, they are second-worst in Goal Differential, at -10 coming in to Thursday. The lowest team in that regard in the Honda West is San Jose, -14 entering play. Think about that for just one second, and you come to the obvious conclusion, shared by nearly everyone in hockey:  the Sharks have a weak netminding duo. But the converse of that is that the Ducks have a great one. Ryan Miller has been solid. Gibson already has three shutouts. That’s in 13 games played by him (now 14). (Miller has started the other three.)

The opposite way to say that, of course, is that if it weren’t for Gibson, the Ducks would be abysmal, because  they just  don’t bury their chances. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said as much after the game: “Everyone has been talking about goal scoring, and that’s something we’re working towards. We’re getting chances, but we’re not getting them in the back of the net.”

He later added, “Tonight, pucks were going right across the goal mouth, and we’re just not jamming it in. Guys  just have to stick with it, and I know it’s tough. Me personally, too. It’s part of my game, and I need to contribute too, especially on the power play. There’s a level of frustration for sure, but we need to keep our minds positive.”

Max Comtois leads the team in goals with seven plus two assists. Nine points. Many teams have players with 20-plus. A few other players, including Nick Deslauriers, have a trio of goals. But “DeLo” wasn’t playing on Thursday. Coach Eakins sat him, not at all because of his play, but because he wanted to get Max Jones back in the lineup, and there isn’t space for everyone. It was almost a regrettable attitude that the coach put on when explaining the situation, but he wanted his fourth line to be Rowney, Jones, and Grant, rather than slot Deslauriers in on that combo.

Did that work to generate offense? Rowney and Grant had five shots between them, of 17 the team took. Jones had zero. Four shot attempts of his were blocked.

The first line, btw, was Getzlaf centering Henrique and Troy Terry, one of the youngsters who toggle back and forth to San Diego (though Terry has been “up” all season thus far this year). Terry  has two goals in 14 games this season entering the evening. On the night, the line produced no points, because the only scoring on the Ducks’ side was by the  “3’s line”—numbers 23, 33, and 43—Steel from Heinen and Silfverberg.

It was Steel’s second goal in two games, a lovely backhand that went into the top right  corner as he  moved across the slot.

The game slowed down a bit for the Ducks in period two, no goals being scored except Steel’s, but that’s not enough to win.

The Ducks had the game pulled to 2-1 midway through P2, and they might have done more, but late in period three, they had a penalty and were scored on to make it 3-1. Too bad, because Gibson had just made a great save on a high point-blank one-timer by Jared Spurgeon. Foligno got the goal.

Minnesota was coming off a 4-0 spanking by the Kings after having taken two weeks off because of pandemic-related illness. They had lost to Colorado, 2-1, before that layoff began. The Wild looked unsure of themselves in LA on Tuesday evening, but any gap left by the layoff had smoothed over by Thursday night.

The Ducks also did themselves in with lack of discipline, taking six minor penalties to three by the Wild. At one point, in period one as mentioned, the team had a five-on-three. Funny  enough, though that’s not something teams typically practice, the Ducks had spent the  whole morning on that skill, according to Coach Eakins after the game. It did no good—they had just three shots in the first period, let alone on the 1:06 minute long two-man advantage.

Eakins said, “It’s amazing. We spent the morning and even before the game talking about five-on-three and four-on-three and we went out there and we froze. We were slow moving the puck, and our execution wasn’t even close to what it needs to be at this level.”

He moved on to talk about the lack of scoring in general: “We thought we were going in the right direction, creating chances, having lots of action. This was a big stop sign, and it’s certainly going to be a big reset. It will be interesting to see how we react in our next game.”

He summed up the  team’s troubles by saying, “We’re trying to find new ways, and even old ways, to score . . .  but we will continue on. No sense feeling sorry for ourselves.”

 

Notes

These two teams go again Saturday night, at the unusual (but not for this year) start time of 6pm.

Defenseman Hampus Lindholm did not come out for period three. No update was available as to his injury.

Brian Kennedy is a PHWA member. He writes using league-supplied information from his SoCal home due to the pandemic.