Nashville might have been tired coming into Sunday evening against the Ducks, but hey, they’d played at 1pm Saturday, so it was more than a 24-hour turnaround to Sunday’s 5pm start. And, given the percentages which say that goalies on the second half of a back-to-back perform considerably worse than their own statistical average, they could have been forgiven for starting Carter Hutton in place of the guy who had lost in OT the day before, that of course being Rinne.
Yeah, that didn’t work out too well. The Ducks had opened up a 3-0 lead by the end of period one, and at the time goal #3 went in, the home team and road team both had fired just ten shots apiece.
Call it some puck luck coming to the Ducks finally perhaps, though none of their tallies were a fluke. They were, rather, the result of two things: good old fashioned hard work, and good new fashioned Ducks hockey. What’s that? Skating, pressure, and long diagonal passes. None of this small-ball approach that the team up the road uses. The Ducks play a much more brave game.
The first goal came after prolonged zone time and two drives to the net by the line of Stewart, Sekac, and Rakell. Rakell finally got the goal, coming out from behind the net with a double deke and scoring from basically in the crease. He had just set Sekac up in the slot moments before, watching while the latter put a wrist shot over the top left corner of the net.
His thought when the puck came to him on his shot was to hold the puck, see whether a pass was open. He said, “I think maybe I was a bit lucky on the shot, but it was nice to see it go in. I was thinking pass first, but when I didn’t think I had it, I was going to shoot it.”
Goals number two and three came within twelve seconds of each other, so fast, in other words, that the announcer hadn’t finished the one before he was calling the second. Offensive explosion it might not have been, but compared to what they’ve been doing—a total of ten goals all season to the point when they began Sunday—it was like the floodgates had been shoved open. The goals were a slapper from the point off the stick of Vatanen and then a wrist shot from Cogliano as he rushed in and fired the puck long side. The shots at that moment were 10-10.
Anderson was sharp for the rest of the period, and Hutton was strong in period two as the teams exchanged penalty chances. Shea Weber potted a goal in the precise fashion he had a day before in LA: slapshot off a one-timer while on the power play. It was like a fastball the batter knows is coming but can’t catch up to.
The half way point of the game thus marked 3-1 and saw the shots at 15 for the Ducks, 26 Nashville.
Except for the mix-ups of lineups due to the penalty and power play time, the Ducks were sticking steady to their line combos. Heck, why not, when they were working?
They surprised a bit, especially since Getzlaf is out, recovering from an appendectomy. That meant that Corey Perry, who has on-again, off-again played with the Captain, was stationed alongside Hagelin and Kesler. Behind them were Stewart, Rakell, and Sekac.
That group was responsible for the Ducks’ fourth goal as well, which was off a puck off the point from Rakell to a sneaking-down Korbinian Holzer. He shot off the goalie, and the puck found itself lying in the low left slot, right where a pressing Chris Stewart was waiting. He shot it into the open side.
Four goals. 19 shots. Why isn’t it always this easy?
As for lines, back of the two mentioned was the Cogliano-Horcoff-Silfverberg trio, and then Maroon-Wagner-Santorelli. Notice anything? How about that Maroon has worked his way back down the lineup, Kesler up it, and Silfvergerg somewhere in no man’s land, though with the speedy Cogliano spelling off the somewhat ponderous Horcoff, that makes an interesting line.
But if I were doing it, Rakell and Sekac would have a more complementary third man, and put Stewart on the line with Horcoff and Cogliano and call it the third, because that’s the line that has traditionally done all the checking in Anaheim. And that is said with all respect. Back to 2007, you look for yourself at what the third line did. Hint: it rhymes with “enabled the team to win the Cup.”
To arrive at who plays forward, in case you were wondering, when you subtract Getzlaf, you open a spot. Rotating into the lineup, though not the hole he leaves, are Stewart, Maroon, and Jackman, who have each played two of the last three games.
Also recently installed in the lineup, Chris Wagner, who was in his fourth straight game and fifth of the season. He has thus far produced no offense but also taken no penalties.
The Predators did add a goal, off of the shot of Jarnkrok. He got a puck in the slot, stickhandled it back and forth what seemed like a dozen times, and finally allowed a defenseman to slide past him before stickhandling a bunch more and then firing it over Anderson’s shoulder.
As frame middle wore on, the penalties continued for both sides, and thus each team had some excellent chances. Both goalies were good, the second ended 4-2, and the country music continued. Yeah, I didn’t say that earlier—it was country night in Anaheim. I did recognize one song, by Dwight Yoakum. Oh, and “Ring of Fire” when Cogliano and Lindholm got into a scuffle with a few Preds behind the Nashville net after Fowler had rushed in and almost scored on a low wrist shot that went off the goalie’s pad with a thump. More like a whump. You know—puck to pillow contact.
Period three featured wide open skating in both directions. The Ducks launched just three shots to the Preds 8, but the latter team tossed a bunch of pucks to the net, especially on the power play, and while they didn’t get through, the play was obviously to work for a redirection or rebound. It didn’t work, and they leave SoCal with just one point out of a possible four, yesterday in their loss in OT to the Kings.
After the game, the Ducks were naturally upbeat. Chris Stewart, whose goal was the first one with the team, said, “For sure [it was a worry]. Anytime you’re losing games, you gotta look in the mirror first, and my play wasn’t good enough. I’ve got to be better for this team, and tonight’s, uh, I’d like to bottle up and bring every game.” Stewart had a three-point night, adding helpers on the first two goals before scoring the insurance goal at exactly 11:00 of period two.
“You get a bounce your way, and it’s going to give you a hop in your step. You’re not gripping the stick as tight as before. Definitely, [we’ll] build on it,” Stewart concluded.
Another player, perhaps more one who is expected to score, is Rakell. He said that on the road trip, he hadn’t felt he had played well. His coach would shortly echo that, saying that they had had a good talk with the player before the game, and that it had paid off (a goal and an assist).
“I always try to be as good as I can,” the player said, “but I was terrible this road trip. We are all professional hockey players, and we want to play as good as we can.” He later added that the rough patch the team has had “has been tough on all of us.”
Rakell also commented on the team’s letdowns this year: “Like in Dallas we were winning 3-0, and it’s hard not to think about that when you’re up three and they’re going to get on the board.” He then credited the goalie, Anderson, who finally has his first win on the year.
Speaking of whom, the netminder said, “Tonight we kept battling. We came out hard and worked for each other. Even when they scored their goals, we didn’t sit back. We just kept battling, kept our attitude good.” But he later added, “I don’t think about the pressure [when the team is not scoring], thinking about stuff like that. My job is stopping the puck, and giving us a chance to win no matter what.”
Anaheim entered the night #2 on the PK and #28 on the PP. No surprise, the latter, given their lack of goal production overall. But the PK—not too shabby. And in fact, their two percentage numbers, which Scotty Bowman is said to have declared must be 100 for a team to win, was 100.9. Hmmm. Formulas don’t always work. And the Ducks did allow one PP goal, the second of the Predators.
The team has now begun a string of six games of seven at home.
The Predators were trying to set a record for not allowing a first-period goal from the start of the season. They had done it in ten games, and they were chasing the 1974-75 Kings, who did it in 12 games. It was not to be, obviously, and if you’re going to blow a record, blow it right. The Ducks scored three times in frame one.