And Then, Zegras

by | Dec 25, 2023

And Then, Zegras

by | Dec 25, 2023

Anaheim, Ca—The Anaheim Ducks are close to intact once more, by which is meant that all of Zegras, McTavish, and Drysdale are in the lineup, off of IR visits lasting anywhere from most of a season (Jamie Drysdale), to a few weeks (Trevor Zegras), and a few games (Mason McTavish). Saturday evening, this newly complete lineup battled the Seattle Kraken. They were in one of those “nothing to see here, so move along” type of games, until Trevor Zegras scored another lacrosse-style goal. This brightened up a losing effort and gave fans something to talk about.

Where did the returnees slot in? As first-line center between Alex Killorn and Troy Terry in Zegras’s case. As second-line center between Frank Vatrano and Ryan Strome in McTavish’s case, and as the sixth defenseman in Drysdale’s case, though that was only a matter of where he was pencilled in on the scoresheet. In fact, Drysdale was second in ice time with about 25 minutes. (Tops was Cam Fowler, who nudged past 31.)

But problem, Houston: Leo Carlsson went down with an injury on Thursday night when MacKenzie Weegar fell on his leg in the third period. He will be out with torn ligaments for 4-6 weeks, though surgery won’t be required. Such is the mercurial nature of pro sports, the injury  merry-go-round. Oh, and add to Carlsson Radko Gudas, who is also hurt.

So with the three aforementioned players having returned, what did fans see versus the Kraken? Another  hardworking, grinding, but skillful game from McTavish. An all-purpose effort from Drysdale. And Zegras being spectacular, though that wasn’t evident right off.

Here are some details, and the big reveal.

Late in the first period, McTavish got directly in someone’s way in the defensive zone, a needless interference penalty. Shorthanded, Brett Leason, the Ducks’ third line right wing, charged down center for a clear-cut breakaway. Joey Daccord made a leg save, not the first of the night.

Right after, the Kraken got a chance back, and scored, in the form of an Oliver Bjorkstrand shot from the low righthand side. The Kraken had taken just seven shots, to the Ducks’ 12. They backed it up shortly later with another, Vince Dunn following the play up from his defense position and putting a short shot into an empty net on a couple of passes.

As period two opened, Ducks’ goalie Dostal made a spreading leg save on Jordan Eberle with less than five minutes gone. This kept the Ducks in the game, though down 2-0. Shortly afterwards, Brandon Tanev raked a stick across Jakob Silfverberg’s face for a well-earned four-minute penalty. The shots were 14 Anaheim, 11 Seattle.

Starting off the power play, the Ducks did some beautiful passing, but shots were passed up. Henrique got close and cruised in for a shot and low save. Next play, off the faceoff, a slapper by Vatrano from the high slot eluded Daccord. It was a no-look, no-pause effort, exactly the recipe their coach mentioned as a good idea a few nights ago, but something the Ducks were not doing early in the PP. He would comment after this one, “We gotta score. It’s something we keep saying to them internally. Again, we had something like 37 shots, but we could have had 45 shots. We’re not a gifted goalscoring team, so we’ve got to adopt a mentality that we’re going to have a high shot volume team. You saw it; there were repeatedly opportunities to just throw pucks down there . . . that one opportunity, we passed it three times before we shot it.”

Still, when it was 2-1, the Ducks were starting to believe. They pressed and almost scored when Alex Killorn shoveled a puck through the crease and past the far post in what looked like it was shaping up to be the game-knotting goal.

McTavish was back on the radar with just three minutes left in the second period. He chased a puck through center. It looked to be out of his reach. He got to it, by which point he was clear of the defense. A quick deke as he got to the top of the crease looked to be what he needed to slide the puck under the keeper. No go. He was again stirring the drink at the end of the period, mixing it up with a Seattle player and taking a punch to the face by Vince Dunn for his trouble. A general milling-about session followed, and several players stayed on the ice as the benches emptied—into the dressing rooms.

Have you noticed a theme here? It’s not Zegras, though his night produced five shots over 18:32 of ice time. But wait.

Early in period three, Seattle took a penalty when Pavel Mintyukov tried to squeeze past Will Borgen. Interference. On the power play, the Ducks finally got a good one-timer off, but passed too much again. When it ended and the puck made its way back to their end, Tomas Tatar picked it up and floated across the zone on a high-to-low diagonal. He made it to the right side of the net, goal line, and lofted a slow backhand that eluded Dostal and a sliding Ducks defenseman. Motivation killer. Ducks down, 3-1.

Zegras drove to the net with about seven minutes to go and shoveled a backhand with no angle to go in. At least he tried to push to the net and shoot.

And then the story changed.

He came down the right side, puck on stick, cruised behind the net, and then all of a sudden you saw the familiar-unfamiliar motion. Is he picking that puck up on the flat blade of his stick? Nobody had time to even formulate that thought into a sentence when he was celebrating, the puck falling to the back of the Seattle net.

Here’s how he explained the goal: “It’s kind of a broken play. Minty dinked it off the wall and they protect in front of the net really well. That was something that was talked about obviously in the pre-scout. So when I went behind the net, it’s something I obviously feel comfortable with doing. In my opinion, it’s not like a crazy play for me to do, and when that goalie goes post-to-post, usually you’ve got a little room upstairs, so lucky enough it went in.”

How did he do that? Speed is far more a qualification than you think. Until you see one of these goals live, you can’t understand. The shift in modality from puck on the stick as in standard stickhandling and puck being picked up off the ice and lying on the blade is instantaneous, a blur.

Even to Zegras himself. Witness his comment on that matter after IH asked him to account for how he does this: “I mean, you kind of read the situation, right, like maybe bottom of the circle, goal line. Something in around tight. You just do it. It’s kind of like a wrap-around [but] you just pick it up on your stick. So I don’t know. I feel like it’s more effective. You kind of just black out for a couple of seconds, and the next thing you know, it’s in the net.”

When IH followed up about whether it was a matter of speed, timing, or what, he replied, “Practice.”

And so it was that three returning players pushed the Ducks to an exciting finish, albeit a loss. Will adding a piece or two make this team complete? No, but you’re seeing the signs of what will one day be a scary team to play, highlight reel goal and all.


I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you have a great time celebrating the holidays this week, if indeed you do. Watch the Norad Santa Tracker tonight to know for sure when your gifts will be delivered.

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