Playing with Hot Brain

by | Nov 14, 2015

Playing with Hot Brain

by | Nov 14, 2015


Rickard Rakell played on a line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf for the first time in his career on Wednesday night. The former two guys were responsible for two goals and two assists respectively, though the first of those was on the power play. This is a good thing.

And that’s why it didn’t take much thinking for Coach Boudreau to put them together again on Friday night with Tavares and the Islanders in town after losing a tight and interesting 2-1 game in LA the evening before.

As Boudreau said in the papers this week, “They’ve had a big, hulking line—now they’ve got a real good skilled player.” Paraphrased, that might sound like this: “I’ve tried everything else I can think of save giving them a meathead for a leftwinger, and nothing’s worked. Why not this?”

He’s trying to right the scoring wrongs of a team that, while it had been on a six-game point streak coming into Friday night (four wins in a row, then two OT losses) still lives with a -16 goal differential (only four teams in the NHL are worse).

And it’s not that their goaltending has been awful. They’ve let in just 40 goals coming into Friday night (44 leaving the evening), which puts them tied for second best in the Pacific with San Jose. LA has allowed just 33 to top the stat and the division. It’s the scoring that the Ducks lack. Their own scoring.

The Ducks came into Friday with 27 goals. Get this—that is worst in the NHL by two, but only one team is two better, Philly. The next fewest goals registered by an NHL team is 32, by Carolina. And 19 of the 30 squads have 40 or more.

Who’s not scoring? Well, Perry’s finally not on that list. His two against the Oilers marked his third and fourth on the year, but also put him among Ducks royalty by tieing him with Paul Kariya second with 300. The all-time franchise leader is, of course, Teemu Selanne, with 457 (of a career 684). He would add a goal Friday, the only one scored by the Ducks.

So who’s not scoring for Anaheim? Getzlaf hasn’t scored. Kesler has one. Hagelin has one. Silfverberg has none. That’s just those who might reasonably be expected to be putting up numbers. As a team, and make of this what you will, the Ducks have gotten nine of their 27 tallies from their defense.

Silfverberg was also the subject of newspaper discussion this week in Anaheim, with the OC Register noting that his having an early season drought is nothing new. Last year, apparently, he didn’t score in his first 16 games but came on to record 13 goals on the season to go with 26 assists. As if that’s any comfort.

He’s playing with Cogliano and Shawn Horcoff on what might be called the third line, at the very least considered the checking line. They found themselves with the job of containing the Tavares line Friday evening until Boudreau shifted them to face the Lee-Bailey-Nielsen trio. Here’s how they did statistically: four shots, two attempts blocked, four missed shots (three by Silfverberg). Five hits. No scoring statistics. But they were on the ice for three of the four New York goals, one by Nelson and two by Nielsen. In other words, another idea by Boudreau that just didn’t work out.

Of course, having the assignment they do also indicates that you’re not going to expect a ton of goals out of them. But having said that, it’s notable that Horcoff has a pair and Cogliano one. Sounds pretty bad, but do the math: three goals on a line. That’s 12 for four lines. Add to that nine on defense and you’ve got 21, not that far off what the Ducks have altogether. Wait. Neither is this good news. Nobody’s producing.

But I’ll say it once more to be clear—the checking line gets a pass on production if they can contain the more powerful offenses in the league.

And just to round out the Ducks lineup for you, the second line is Stewart, Kesler, and Maroon and the fourth is Chris Wagner with Karl Hagelin and Max Friberg.

And those two combinations leave too many openings not to make a couple of observations. For one, try this: that second line has to be the toughest three guys on this team, and darn close to the three biggest and most frightening, mean-spirited men on any line in the NHL. We’re talking Ducks hockey circa 2007 there. For two, how about Hagelin, the speedy boy wonder who came from New York to play the kind of hockey the Ducks play—fast and loose, with risky long passes—and what’s happened? He’s got lead in his boots.

And he’s on the fourth line with two guys who have played a combined 26 games after Friday. Oh, and neither of them has ever scored a goal. Nor registered an assist.

What’s he doing in Anaheim? He’s like a feather. He floats around, whisping past people who barely notice his presence. He does have two points, a goal and an assist. But that’s it.

In New York last year, he was on a line with Dominic Moore and Martin St. Louis, who had a combined 1819 games and 1263 points by the end of last year.

Demotion, how do I spell thy name?

He’s going to have a hard time playing his way back up the lineup if his minutes are of the fourth-line variety. Until Friday, that hadn’t started to happen, but he had a scant five minutes versus the Isles, coming off of more than 16 versus Edmonton and most nights, at least 15. His high for the season is 20, versus Dallas on October 27. Did I say demotion? I meant near elimination.

The Friday game ended this way for him: 1 shot. If you’re waiting for more, keep waiting. There ain’t no more, except plus-minus. Minus one was his number.

Speaking of the game, here’s a quick recap: The Ducks got behind early, by a 2-0 score. They had allowed early penalties, two in each of the first two periods in fact, though they killed all four, including a long 5-on-3 halfway through period one.

They then caught up by one on the power play, by Corey Perry, who now has five, all scored since November 4th and with the last one, moving solely into second for Ducks’ all-time goals. It’s not likely that Kariya will be here to take the spot back. Heck, he wouldn’t even show up for his buddy Selanne’s jersey retirement ceremony last winter.

Perry’s goal came on the PP 5-on-3 as well, and saw Rakell get yet another assist along with Kesler, his fifth of the year.

Both of the first pair of New York goals, one in each period, went essentially the same place—off the glove of goalie Khudobin then down low between the cheater on the wrist portion of the glove and the extended leg pad. The first was rather a long shot and showed that the netminder was too far to his right to simply let the puck hit him, which seems to be the MO of goalies these days. (You can translate that into Canadian and it’ll sound like this: the goalie equipment is so big it’s making the game no fun to watch.)

Period three saw the Islanders get two more, both at even strength. They fired ten shots to the Ducks’ nine in the frame, and ended with 29 to Anaheim’s 25.

So to recap, the Ducks aren’t getting much scoring. They aren’t terrific on defense. And their goaltending, at least on Friday, was only so-so. How you going to win games like that?

Did I say defense? Well, their numbers against on Friday night were like this: They allowed 29 shots but also 41 shot attempts in addition (missed or blocked). They allowed four goals, all at even strength.

But more than that, it’s the moments that matter, and here’s one: Anders Lee beat Josh Manson for a puck at the Ducks half wall going into the Anaheim zone. He then passed it out to Josh Bailey, who quick-dished it to Frans Nielsen, who scored. But who was in front? Hampus Lindholm, who let the puck go right by him, and didn’t check the man either. Weak.

So what now? Boudreau’s more or less out of bullets, and you could hear it in his post-game comments. “You know what, I wish I had the answer to [how to find the back of the net]. In the past it’s always been the little things, like getting the puck to the front of the net, going to the net, things that we’re not doing on a regular basis at this point.”

Boudreau did credit his goalie with a good game, despite the loss. “Two empty-net goals basically in the third period. There’s nothing that he can do about that. I thought he played stellar.”

He summarized: “We need to put some wins together. It’s as simple as ABC. Where we win doesn’t matter. . . . We’re good in pockets right now, in little pockets. . . . It’s getting it together and doing it all the same, it’s what we have to do.”

Khudobin said something roughly like that when he indicated, “It’s frustration game. For me, like, I think atmosphere is pretty good. We’re close to each other, but I think we just playing right now with hot brain instead of cold brain.” Then he later said, “We couldn’t find a way how to score goals, but we tried, hard. They tried to block everything . . . . We’re talking. We want to win, we want to get better, but something is going to wrong way. But we’ll figure it out; we’ll talk. We will find a way, what to do to get the points.” But neither he nor anyone else in Anaheim seems to know precisely what that way is.

Changes are suggested, to some, but look at this team. They’ve changed a great deal this summer into this year. It’s not about change. It’s about cohesion, and players—Hagelin, Getzlaf, Kesler, and others—playing up to their potential.



Follow me on twitter @growinguphockey.

Christmas ideas? My books make great gifts, but then again, I’m biased. The newest is Facing Wayne Gretzky, and you’re gonna learn a lot about the magic that was Wayne if you read it.

The Ducks now head off on the road for four games starting in Carolina and ending in Tampa Bay.



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