If following a hockey team is kinda like being in on the gossip in a small town, then Ducks fans have a few things to whisper about with the Stars in town on Thursday evening. Guys coming, guys going, new hopes for injury recovery. The power play.
Forget I said that last one. The Ducks PP is abysmal. There’s no two ways about it. Witness the numbers: they entered Thursday night 21stin the league. Doesn’t sound too bad. But on the night, they were zero for three, and on two chances in a row, each time they registered no shots. The reason is simple—they didn’t get into the Dallas zone with power or speed. One guy often tried to carry the puck in. Nobody was in synch with him.
But on to happier things. The team has Rickard Rakell back after he missed six games. He played his first game back earlier in the week versus Columbus. On that night, he registered 17:32 of ice time. On Thursday, Country Night in Anaheim, he was on ice for 17:33 and played on the right win with Isac Lundestrom at center and Max Comtois on the left. Rakell did not register a shot, but he had two attempts blocked. That’s not unusual against Dallas, who choke up the ice and block, block, block.
Troy Terry is also on the mend after a small break in the fibula just below the knee cap. He should be back to playing soon. He needs to get his aerobic capacity back to max, according to Ducks coach Dallas Eakins. Terry was supposed to be out for ten weeks, and so is doing much better than originally anticipated. He was injured in mid-December.
Also noteworthy: Coach Eakins is working hard to get Ondrej Kase back to his scoring potential. Kase was recently on a 17-game goal drought, but he broke out with two goals versus the Blue Jackets Tuesday. That was partly the product of lots of ice time, as media reports pointed out this week. Interesting approach to give him lots of playing time when he wasn’t producing, and kind of the opposite of what an old-school coach might do.
It’s not for lack of trying that he (and everyone else on the Anaheim squad) didn’t score Thursday against the Stars. Kase had five shots, two blocked shot attempts, and five missed shots. So of the total 61 shots, attempts, and attempts blocked, he had approximately twenty percent.
He found himself on the right wing with Max Jones and Sam Steel. That spot is typically occupied by Terry when healthy as the Ducks feature their kid line. After the game, Jones had some good things to say about his line. “It kinda seems like our lines’s been playing really well. [Steel and Kase] are really easy to play with. I find myself in front of the net a lot with those two. The puck bounces one way or the other and you kind of find yourself either on the right side of it or not.”
He added that they’re making their game more sophisticated by moving away from the cycle game to one where they use their defensemen and do some switching of sides. “I find myself trying to open up space for [my linemates]. If we just keep playing the way we are right now, things will open up for us.”
But none of that salves the loss nor the fact that the Ducks remain mired with the Kings in the Pacific basement. The captain, Ryan Getzlaf, was matter-of-fact honest about the game afterwards. “Our line alone . . . we had six, seven grade-A scoring chances, and we didn’t score.” He said. “I’m not disappointed with the effort, but we’ve got to find ways to score goals, and it’s a tough league to do it in. We’ve gotta find a way here.”
Coach Eakins was also positive, though his team is now loser of two straight and four of five. “We just have to play better. This league’s extremely tight. I think tonight’s a great example of that. When you have chances of scoring, they’ve got to go in the net.”
He said the Ducks were also not good at keeping the puck out of the net at the critical time. This would include when Max Jones was in the box for a high stick that was actually a Dallas stick waving in the air. He said his team just has to “stand up and be big and get the kill” in those situations. “That’s what we’re missing on both sides now, that critical get it in the net and that critical time where we’ve got to keep it out.”
“To be honest, I’m not sure where [I thought] we were going to be [at this point in the season]. I think when I look at our record, I do believe it should be better. . . . I think we should have five or six more wins, but all of that doesn’t matter. We need to get better as a group, and get better as individuals. I think we are doing well in some categories here and in others we could be better.”
When asked about the good, he said the young guys were doing well. “If you look at their game now compared to the first fifteen, twenty games, I think they’re playing much better. Our team game, especially that scoring part of it, we’ve got to keep hammering on. We have to find more goals from everybody in our room.”
Also of note, although now with a Dallas home address: Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano. Each made his return to Anaheim and was saluted during breaks in play. Perry is currently suspended for elbowing Ryan Ellis of Nashville. He appeared in a blue suit and with his wife and baby beside him, viewing the game in a suite. Cogliano was on the ice during one of the TV timeouts. He stood still for a long time then waved with each hand as a video tribute played.
Perry’s accomplishments with the club were many, including appearing in 988 games with the Ducks, recording 776 points as a Duck, and being second in the team’s history in goals, game-winners (64), shots, and games. He is third all-time on the team in points. Perry won the Rocket Richard Trophy and Hart Trophy in 2011. He was part of the Cup-winning club in 2007.
Cogliano played for the Ducks for nearly 600 games, from 2011-2019. He appeared in 502 consecutive games, an Anaheim record. He would have played in more but for an ill-executed suspension by former Ducks favorite George Parros in his capacity as league discipline czar.
The Ducks now go on the road for five games, starting with Chicago and eventually looping around to San Jose on the 27th.
Eakins said that Jacob Silfverberg, hurt against Nashville, was a huge loss, “Critical to everything that we do, right from before the game starts he’s a great leader, he’s usually an 18 to 20 minute guy every night, he’s critical on our power play, and he’s one of our top penalty killers. We’re looking for him on our bench a lot.” He did not specify further regarding the situation.