You might almost not recognize the Anaheim Ducks, if you dropped in from anytime around 2017 and saw them play the Vancouver Canucks Friday night at Honda Center. This in a game which came on the Mexican Day of the Dead, duly celebrated with, amongst other things, a very amusing Wild Wing mini troll doll giveaway.
The Ducks’ personnel has largely flipped over, and their style has transformed itself, too. No longer are they launching the puck in from the blueline. More now, the strategy is to hold it over the line. They still cycle altogether too much for my taste, however.
Their personnel is largely different, too, with only a few notables like Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, and Jakob Silfverberg on forward and Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler on D being consistent faces in the lineup from as little as a couple of years ago.
The roster otherwise is filled with people who have come lately to the team through trade or draft. Max Comtois, playing on the first line, has 20 NHL games. Max Jones, Sam Steel, and Troy Terry, the third line on this night, have a combined season-and-a-half’s worth. Interestingly, except for the fact that Ryan Getzlaf, the captain and top-line center, has 999 games, the Ducks’ fourth line would be the team’s most experienced trio. That’s Nicolas Deslauriers, Derek Grant, and Carter Rowney. They have played nearly 700 games altogether.
Because there are so many young guys around, the lineup shifts, and this has been true also because the team has already suffered some injuries. Just for example, Ondrej Kase is hurt and thus knocked off the top line and out of the lineup. Nick Ritchie moved up from lower in the lineup to take his spot, and any of Jones, Deslauriers, or Shore is taking the extra spot. On this night, the odd man out was Shore, who did not dress.
On defense, Lindholm has just come back from missing two games to injury, and his return forced Jacob Larsson out of the lineup. It might have been Josh Mahura, but he notched three assists in his season debut versus Winnipeg on Tuesday evening. His career total is now 1-7-8 points in 19 games through Friday.
The team started out the year with relatively low expectations. They feature a pack of inexperienced players, after all, and they didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard last season.
They’re still not scoring much. Of the Western teams technically in the playoffs when the evening began, the Ducks had the fewest goals, tied with St. Louis at 39. The differential wasn’t helped much by the events of the night, which saw Anaheim put in only two, to Vancouver’s one.
The Ducks didn’t do a lot of anything to start out against the Canucks. Rather, they plodded along to only five shots over against 19 for the Canucks in period one. It was pure opportunism that put them a goal ahead at about the thirteen-minute mark, a shorthanded goal by Silfverberg off a broken play in front of the Vancouver net. He netted his seventh when Rakell pursued a loose puck into the Vancouver zone and lost it. Silfverberg swept it up and did a little toe-up deke with his skate and put it up and over the goalie’s shoulder on the near side in very close to the net.
The start was something both the captain and the coach commented on. First, Getzlaf: “We need to start on time. That’s our focus right now. Coming out of that one, that’s our mentality going into tomorrow, and into Sunday, is that we’ve got to start starting games on time. We’re doing much in the first period; that’s uncharacteristic of our group right now.”
He said that the failing was, “Just standing. If you stand and watch the game, it’s fast out there. We’re doing too much of that. . . .. You can’t expect to get outshot 20-5 in the first period every night and win hockey games.”
The coach would add, “We certainly weren’t ready to start. For whatever reason, we came out of the gate slow, and we were actually anticipating a much better start after a couple of good days of practice.”
He later commented, “It felt great to get the win, but we need to do something different to start these games.”
The goal stood up for almost forty minutes, despite the Vancouver team having five power play chances (on the night). This was the Ducks’ third shorthanded goal of the season.
Vancouver tied the game with about seven minutes left to play in regulation when Adam Gaudette got his first of the year. This was at 13:42 of the third. It came off a cross-ice pass from Brandon Sutter to Gaudette and back to Sutter, who appeared from a distance to put the puck in on a redirect. Actually, what happened was the puck glanced in off Korbinian Holzer’s skate and past John Gibson.
Before it was over, Gibson would face 40 shots. His teammates were embarrassed by this, but he was sanguine. “It’s my job. I’m the goalie. I’ve got to save the shots, whether it’s ten or fifty. I’m used to it,” he would say in the locker room.
Getzlaf said, “Great goalie, but that’s not how we want to play hockey.”
Aside from the start, the Ducks need to clean up their penalty-taking. This, by the way, is a characteristic of the team that predates Eakins and the current roster. The Ducks’ penalty kill has been spot-on efficient at about 80 percent, but they’d rather not get as much chance as they are to show off their skills. As Ryan Getzlaf said sarcastically after the game, “We’ve been doing a lot of work on it in games. Way too much. We’re killing seven-eight penalties a night. To me, a lot of those come from not starting on time. When you stand around watching, you tend to take penalties, and we’ve got to get a little bit better in the first period.”
Then there’s the allowed offense by the other team. The shots were lopsided all night, though less so in the late going, with the opening frame being 19-5 for Vancouver and the third period 8-5 in the Ducks’ favor. The totals were 40-29 with the visitors prevailing in that category but not in the final score. That makes three games in a row where Gibson has faced forty or more shots. Two of them have been wins. The first was at Vegas, a loss, with the Ducks taking 15 shots and the Golden Knights 49. Triple the Ducks’ number!
Anyway, if you’re measuring by wins, everything came out OK. OT was the purview of the Ducks. The goal came at 2:30 of the OT period, with Troy Terry spotting Getzlaf way down ice from behind his net. Terry flung a long pass which Getzlaf stopped with his glove. He went in on net, and goaltender Jacob Markstrom came way out, but missed. Getzlaf swept the puck around him and scored into the empty cage.
When asked about it later, Getzlaf said he hadn’t anticipated that aggressive a move on the netminder’s part. “That was an aggressive play. I’m just glad that it worked out that way.” He also gave credit to Terry for his vision on getting the puck up ice.
Terry himself said that they had been practicing flinging the puck that far, and that he purposely put it off the ice, forcing Getzlaf to glove it, because if not, it could have been intercepted and turned back on the Ducks.
Gibson got the assist on the game winner.
Sunday will mark Getzlaf’s 1000th game.
You can follow me on twitter @growinguphockey.
The Kings face Chicago tomorrow. They’ll also be doing Day of the Dead festivities. Any giveaway won’t match that Ducks troll doll, though. No way. That thing just makes you happy to look at it.