Ketchup bottle. Chain reaction. Turning the corner. Getting their game back. Call it any of those or something else, the people following the Ducks this week have had their faith in their team restored. Somewhat.
Their four leading scorers coming into Friday night with Columbus in town were still knotted at four points. Not four goals and a bunch of assists. Four points. They were Rakell, who happened to be out after a knock on the noggin on Wednesday night; Perry, who finally got his first goal of the season to tie the game with Florida at 2-2 and force OT and eventually a shootout that the Ducks won; Chris Stewart, whose shootout winning goal won’t even show up on his goals tally; and Hampus Lindholm, the backliner who led the team in shots with 29 as Friday’s action was getting underway.
Put that another way: if any of those four guys were a rookie, he’d be 16th in rookie scoring. As it is, the top 32 players in the league have at least 12 points. And where would a four-point man fit? 245th in the league, right behind Vernon Fiddler.
Not a lie. Shocking though, right?
It’s amazing Anaheim has won any games at all, and they actually had a streak of two. Fans fighting traffic on the way to Honda Center for the 7pm start hoped it would stretch at least by one, especially since the team was due to fly to San Jose to play in just 24 hours.
In goal on this night was once again Frederik Andersen. He was in his 11th game of the year. One newspaper report described this as “riding Freddy Andersen,” Heck, Jonathan Quick is right on the same pace, having played 11 of his team’s first 13 games, including Thursday night, when the Blue Jackets beat the Kings 3-2.
On the forward lines, one notable was missing: Rakell. He was the victim of an open-ice hit against Florida’s Alex Petrovic in period one, as aluded to above. Wednesday, he stayed on the bench for a brief while but then left and did not return. His minutes show him at 4:30.
In his place in the lineup for Friday was Getzlaf. OK, not what you’re thinking. Better to say it, Rakell left the lineup, leaving room for the returning Ryan Getzlaf, recently having survived appendix surgery. The only other notable change was that with Sekac out for the second game in a row, Max Friberg was in the lineup. He was wearing #43, and this was his third career game and second of the year. His first of the season was Wednesday night. On that occasion, he played 10:12 and registered a shot.
The line Friberg was on featured also Mike Santorelli and Chris Wagner. The other two were playing in their 12th and 7th games of the year, respectively. Neither Wagner nor Friberg had registered a point on the year to this point.
Friberg, if you want an instant analysis, is fast. Like fahhhst. On one shift in the second period, he buzzed all around in his own end, helping his defense. He picked up a puck and passed it back to the D, then the next thing you know, was in the far left corner in the Columbus zone chasing it down. When he got there, he turned his back on Cody Goloubef and was boarded, drawing a two-minute minor on behalf of Anaheim.
The Ducks scored on the play, their second goal of the night. The first had come in period one, off a zigzag passing play from Getzlaf to Perry in the neutral zone, an all-alone break for Perry in on net, a shot, a rebound, and a chip by a hard-charging Cam Fowler into the cage over the goalie.
The second goal came with Maroon in front. Perry cruised to the front and the puck came, It hit Maroon and ended up on the ice, where he whacked it home. It was his first goal of the year.
Friberg was naturally on the bench at the time, this being the power play, but a couple of more notes about him: he was drafted by the Ducks in 2011, fifth round. He has never had an NHL point, and he is 5’11” and 200 lbs. He’s nearly 23, and he has appeared in seven games with the AHL Gulls this year, getting three goals and five points. Of the goals, one was on the PP and one shorthanded. No wonder, with that speed.
His AHL career thus far spans 145 games, and has him at 36-50-86 points and 101 PIMs.
So Anaheim was up 2-0, but the Jackets got one back on a lazy defensive play with Vatanan and Stoner on the ice. Columbus made a three-way pass that came to Dubinsky low right side. He saw a lane weakly guarded by Stoner, and shoveled the puck through. Meanwhile, with Stoner committed to the pass, however poorly, Vatanan let Hartnell sneak behind him right on the edge of the crease, and he redirected the pass into the open left wide of the net. It was thus 2-1 roughly halfway through the game.
If there’s a weakness on the Ducks right now, aside from lack of scoring, it’s on the blueline. The play above illustrates it, but so does another one. Lindholm and Josh Manson were out together when the Blue Jackets broke through the neutral zone. Jared Boll made a pass to Gregory Campbell, and he got the puck to the net. But here’s the thing: when the pass went through, both Manson and Lindholm were chasing the puck, awkwardly trying to block the pass. Neither was close enough to actually do anything to any of the following—the puck carrier, the guy passing it, or the one receiving it.
Period two ended 2-1 for the Ducks, but it was the classic case of “letting them—the other guys—hang around.” The Jackets ended up with 20 shots to the Ducks 22, whereas they had ended period one with 10 to Anaheim’s 11. Each team, as noted, scored one goal in the frame. But here’s another measure of things. The Ducks were outshooting the visiting team 19-11 just after the Blue Jackets scored their first goal. That means that the visitors outshot the home team 9-3 in the second part of the middle period.
As the twenty minutes ended, the Jackets were on a power play, briefly on a 5-on-3, and then on another PP. The most dangerous chance on the exchange was a point shot from Hartnell that literally zinged its way to the net and went off one of the posts. Shortly later, a scrum ensued in front, but the puck managed to stay on the right side of the line as far as Anaheim was concerned.
The Blue Jackets were expected to come out for the third tired. They had played the night before in LA. The Jackets are a bigger, heavier team than you might expect, but LA is the very definition of that, and the teams had played a rough, fight-ridden, and nasty contest. The kind that shows itself a day later in tired legs and achy muscles that won’t respond like they’re supposed to.
So what do the Blue Jackets go and do in P3? They play their butts off and outshoot the Ducks to end the game 36-34. And they score a late goal, with a minute to go, to make it close.
But they lost. How?
They were on the power play early and got the shots to 22-22. Then the Ducks poured on the action. Cogliano buzzed and got the puck off on a goal-line slapper. Maroon got a puck in the left slot and took a long wrister that it appeared was done in hopes of a rebound. Perry held the puck a long time around the net and passed it out to Josh Manson, who took a hard wrister, putting it under the goalie’s arm to score his first NHL goal. At that point it was 3-1. The Ducks would eventually win 4-2.
The last goal, by Anaheim, was on a selfish, stupid play off the stick of Stoner. He had the puck inside his own blueline with 15 seconds to go and the Jackets having just made it 3-2. He flung a shot up over everyone’s head and down into the Columbus net.
But had it gone wide, it’s faceoff in the offensive zone with plenty of time. If I were Boudreau, I would chew his a$$ out, in front of his teammates, for this bonehead play. As it was, he made the score 4-2. Think about that. The fact that Hartnell scored meant that Manson not only had his first goal, but his first game winner.
Despite the loss, Coach Tortorella of Columbus was happy. “Quite honestly, after the second period, I thought we had them. I thought we were playing. I thought we were quicker. I thought we had them going into the third.”
He further said, “We didn’t quit. We had chances and Andersen made some big saves.” He lamented the breakdown that led to Manson’s game winner, but said that “I think we took steps in the right direction [on the trip]. . . . We need to get our top guys going consistently. As the trip started, we said, Oh, crap, but I thought we answered very well. I didn’t think we gave in today. We were a little inconsistent, but I thought we played. We didn’t get the result, but I thought we played.”
“I don’t think our top guys are consistent enough, and that has to change. . . . We need more plays from out top guys to keep us consistently into games.”
His other interesting comment was that his team needs to make it tough to play in Columbus. He cited that they haven’t won a game there yet and said that this must be improved. He said they have taken steps in “identifying our identity, if that’s the right way to put it, but we have to take that into our building. If you don’t win home games, you have no chance, and right now we haven’t, a month into the season. Right now, that’s a sore spot.”
The Blue Jackets were coming off two Cali wins and looking for the Golden State sweep. They downed the Kings 3-2 and bested San Jose two nights prior by 5-2.
The Ducks are the ones who will shortly be tired. They play three games in four nights, concluding at home on Monday night with Arizona in Anaheim. Their game Saturday in San Jose also marks the first one of four with just a day in between each. They play the 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th.
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Oh, as for the other Manson–so far as I know, he’s still in the clink.