Juuse Saros (NSH - 74) gets ready for a faceoff.

Ducks Stuff the Cupboard

If you wander down the right  hallway  in Honda  Center, home of the Ducks, sometime soon, you might see a man looking suspiciously like  the General Manager pushing hard on a cupboard door, trying to close it. Pat Verbeek  is still not  likely to be able to shut in all the assets he stockpiled this week during the final trading days before the embargo which fell at noon local time Monday.

And if you  looked at the lineup for the game versus Nashville Monday night, you’d have a hard time not noticing an absence of familiar names. Manson—gone. Rakell—gone. DesLauriers—gone. And Lindholm—gone.

But did Verbeek ever turn them into a lot of assets, which I’ll detail below.

The lines with  Nashville in on Monday night thus looked unfamiliar, but not without talent, maybe better talent-in-development. Many  times through the game, Coach Eakins kept two guys together and switched out the third.

Notable combinations included Troy Terry with Zegras and Derek Grant; Adam Henrique with Gerry  Mayhew and Max Comtois; Isac Lundestrom with the Sams, Steele and Carrick, and Vinni Letteiri with Buddy Robinson and Danny O’Regan.

Some of those names might be unfamiliar, including Mayhew and O’Regan. AHL star Jerry Mayhew was grabbed off waivers from Philadelphia, and O’Regan is having a good AHL season with the Ducks’ San Diego affiliate.

On defense, three familiar names—Fowler, Shattenkirk, and Drysdale—were complemented by less experienced names Sustr, Mahura, and Benoit.

To understand the  full scope of Verbeek’s dealing, let’s go through the trades, one by one, but note that not a single player amongst these actually dressed Monday night.

First, Josh Manson went to Colorado for big Dman Drew Helleson and a second-round pick.

Second, Lindholm found his way to Boston along with Kodie Curran for Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore, and three picks (a first-rounder and two second-rounders). Moore was then flipped to Vegas along with Kesler’s old contract for Evgenii Dadonov and a conditional second-round pick. (At press  time, this trade remained in limbo.) Hampus had wanted an eight-year extension, which he eventually  got from the Bruins. The Ducks reportedly were looking more in the five-to-six-year range for the deal.

Vakaanainen is coming off injury but should play soon. He is 6’2” and 200 pounds, young at 23 and a former 18th overall pick in 2017. He’s not a big offensive guy, at this point, with six assists in 39 games, but he is a good passer who should help set up breakouts from the Ducks’ zone.

Third, Rickard Rakell went off to Pittsburgh for Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon and goalie Calle Clang along with a second-round pick. So they lose their zone entry guy on the PP but turn him into four assets.

Finally, the Ducks gave up Nic DesLauriers to Minnesota for a third-round pick. His loss makes the Ducks a lighter team, but  interestingly, his first contribution to the Wild came in the form of the team’s first goal on the night playing in Minnesota against the Golden Knights.

If  you total it all up, that makes seven draft picks and six players, and the worst of the picks is that DeLo third-round choice. The others were a first and five seconds. Now you  see why  Verbeek is pushing hard with his shoulder to keep the cupboard, stuffed with goodies, closed.

In fact, he’ll open it up sooner rather than later, because he has already  said that he’s not just stockpiling for development, but rather building up things that can be traded in the summer for right-now assets. This is somewhere the Ducks have not been for a while. Former GM Bob Murray  tended to hold onto assets—read that as a strategy or reluctance to make moves, but those days are apparently  gone.

The Ducks aired an interview with Verbeek between periods two and three, and he said, “My  goal was to try  to acquire young players that were a couple of years in advanced  in  their development from their draft year.” He said his draft picks would “allow us to explore a couple of different options that would maybe get us different types of players, younger players for the future of our team.”

Earlier in the day, Verbeek said that he expects players to compete for spots, naming Buddy Robinson and Sam Carrick as those who might be particularly under scrutiny. My reaction? Poor Sam Carrick—what’s he got to do? He’s not super-talented in the offensive department, but as a fourth liner, he’s proved himself this year, a middleweight who frequently  stands up for  himself and his teammates.  He has nine fights now, after going early  with big tough guy Tanner Jeannot and later with big dude Borowiecki. The first time, it was for a hit Jeannot put on Carrick in the slot, a clean bang delivered after Carrick had delivered a shot from out high. The second is detailed below.

The Ducks charged out early, shooting at Saros and forcing a blocker save, opening up a 7-2 shot advantage before the first period was halfway over and scoring in the form of Derek Grant’s tenth goal.

They were shortly supported by Jon Gibson, who exploded from his right to left on a two-on-one by the Preds and smothered the puck under his pads. It was briefly questioned as having gone in, but there was no referee’s indication of it being a goal, and no challenge or review.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, Roman Josi earned his 76th point on a drive where he ripped a shot under the crossbar short side with Gibson leaving too much room between his right arm and the post. He was thus one-third of the way to gaining three points in his fifth consecutive game. With four such games coming in, he was in Robert Gordon Orr territory. That’s a player you might better known as Number Four, Bobby Orr.

Granlund almost made it 2-1, except that Jerry Mayhew slid across the front of the crease backwards and made a save off his chest.

But the Ducks did trail by a goal shortly  into the second period when the Preds immediately capitalized (13 seconds) on a four-minute double minor for high sticking against Max Comtois.

The Ducks tied the game in the form of Troy Terry’s thirtieth goal, the tenth Duck to score that many in a campaign. He whipped out from the left corner and launched a puck far side just under the top tube in the corner of the net.

The game remained all even with four  minutes to go in the second period, each team with two goals and 20 shots. The Ducks were unable to take advantage of a Nashville minor penalty at that point. They were hampered in part by the  lack of zone entry, which, as was mentioned, you can chalk up to the loss of Rakell.

The game turned chippy in the latter going of the second, with a hit on Mayhew and later a chop of the hand of goaltender Gibson. The Ducks responded with scrums but no more than that.

The third period saw Nashville press. They needed the two points a win would represent, coming into the night in the first wildcard spot with a five-point advantage on the first team out of the playoffs just now, Dallas, who have played one less game. Could the Ducks stymie their attempt at two points?

Nope. The Preds’ Forsberg got his first of what would later be two goals when he stole a puck at the blueline of the Ducks, walked between two players, and shot dead to rights past Gibson. They added another to  make it 4-2 before Grant got his second to inch it closer. In between, Saros had a skate problem and had to leave the game for 44 seconds of playing time to get it fixed. David Riddich briefly filled in.

The Preds continued the pressure and scored a power play  and an empty-net goal. Their power play  generated three goals on five attempts. The Ducks got none on four tries.

The game ended with another Carrick fight with under two minutes to go after he was again checked hard, this time by Borowiecki. He probably  could have let it go. This was his ninth major of the year.

 

Notes

Each goalie, Gibson and Saros, at one point took pucks directly  off their masks. Neither needed attention nor was concussion-watched.

The Preds will play  up the 5 Freeway tomorrow night in LA. The Ducks await Chicago on Wednesday before heading to San Jose on the weekend.

Filip Forsberg ended the night with  five points.