With the Ducks hosting the Kings for a Friday night encounter, it’s time to talk about what one team has and what the other does not in various categories, not as a way of saying who’s the better team(their points totals tell that tale pretty well) but as a way of getting a sense of the culture and potential of each squad. So here goes.
One team has a goalie who survives a shellacking almost every night and holds his team in the game, often in losing efforts. That’s the Ducks, obviously, and John Gibson, who has been on the stinging end of 1216 shots thus far this year, by far more than most goalies in the league. The other night, he faced 59 and made 53 saves, a team record. Against the Kings on Friday, he took 40 (plus one empty netter). By contrast, Jonathan Quick has faced 530 shots and Pheonix Copley 644. This of course is a product of the fact that until about 22 games ago, Copley was either not on the gameday roster or acting as backup. He’s taken over the starting spot now, though his place for Saturday’s game versus Arizona is in question after he took a match penalty against the Ducks for punching with his blocker on. His situation will likely be reviewed by the league in the morning.
One team has a long-serving captain. The other one is making due without one. In his place—Getzlaf’s place—is a crew of alternates. So on Friday, for the ceremonial puck drop, it was Kopitar of the Kings versus Cam Fowler of the Ducks.
One team has scoring, the other team not so much. The top five scorers on the Kings have a total of 219 points. The top five on the Ducks have 179. At the team level, the goals for and goals against go like this: For the Ducks, 138 for (coming into Friday) and 230 against, for a deficit of 92. For the Kings, 184 goals for and 185 against, for an obvious minus-one. They would be pushed into plus territory by a 6-3 win on Friday versus Anaheim.
This poor production, or negative production if you count the Ducks’ big negative in goal differential, is the result of the obvious fact that the Ducks are rebuilding. McLellan of the Kings explained: “They’re doing what they have to do as an organization. They’re in the exact spot we were three or four years ago.”
One team has fans who travel. The other, not really. Friday with an extremely odd 6pm start time, the Ducks were the host, but “Go Kings Go!” was the chant, loud and often. And they had reason to be loud—their team scored first as they outshot the Ducks in period one, 14-5. It had been 2-2, then suddenly 14-2, before the Ducks put on a bit of a late push.
The second period brought some home noise in the form of the Ducks’ goal chant, deployed early on when Shattenkirk flung a puck to the net on a wrister with a screen in front. The shots never did totally straighten up. They went to 20 (Kings) to ten (Ducks), and the Ducks stayed consistently ten shots behind as the game progressed. They ended with 27 to LA’s 41.
One team has a flashy young superstar who can surprise fans almost every night. The other has a youngster just growing into his potential. For the Ducks the surprise-maker is, as you likely could figure, Trevor Zegras. It’s hard to know what’s coming next with him. Forget lacrosse-style goals. Zegras can put the puck in the net in the “normal” way as well. Take Wednesday versus Buffalo. He cruised across the slot from left to right and threw a backhander back against the grain, up and over the goalie and just under the bar. Beautiful. In a losing effort, in the end, as so much of what this team does is this year. But still lovely.
On the opposite side is Quinton Byfield, touted as the next big power center on the LA side. He spent part of his first season injured (ankle) and hasn’t really come to prominence yet. His points total this year is 2-9-11 in 26 games. He also has 15 points in 16 AHL games for the Ontario Reign. He’s tall, at 6’5”, and is still growing into his size. One thing we know is that GM Rob Blake has said that in any trades that might be made this spring, Byfield and defenseman Brandt Clark are off the table.
One team is fairly disciplined, most of the time, and one is taking penalties time after time. The Kings have taken 487 PIMs thus far this season coming into the weekend. The Ducks have a whopping 644. This puts them fourth in the league, while the Kings are below mid-way down the table, where getting to the bottom spot is obviously the goal.
There’s really no excuse for how undisciplined the Ducks are—so often these are offensive zone calls, really useless infractions which don’t do what a penalty against should—stop a scoring chance. Just to cite an easy example, against the Kings, the Ducks were, as usual, lagging in shots, being behind 31-10 with about ten minutes to go, but the score was just 3-2 for LA, and thus Anaheim was still in it.
Derek Grant shoved a puck with his hand off the face off, something that has been illegal for a couple of seasons. This was in the offensive zone. The ensuing power play saw the Kings take a 4-2 lead pretty handily when Kopitar scored from Fiala and Doughty. This should not have happened.
Shortly after, it was first-line right wing Ryan Strome taking an offensive zone hooking penalty. The Kings scored on this chance, too, to bury their former “Freeway Face Off” rivals. An extra goal with nobody in the net made the final score what it was.
And finally: one team has shiny silver buckets; the other plain black ones. Yes, the Kings trotted out their chrome domes for this down-the-freeway showdown. Hard not to see this as a kind of slight, and annoying to boot. What’s like to play against that?
Coach McLellan put the cap on this comparison after the game: “Four years ago, we were probably the Ducks, and Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were still here scoring goals, and every team has their timeline and their plan. It doesn’t change the rivalry. It doesn’t take LA or Anaheim off the map and move them to another state or another country. We’re still down the road, and the fans know that, too. It was a full building and an excited building. You could feel it on the bench.”