On the surface, mixing lines all up works. That might have been Anaheim Coach Dallas Eakins’ lesson on Monday night with the Kings in town. His line mixing and mingling continued as it has over the past weeks, and his team won a strong 4-2 game.
Look closer. The scoring came mostly from the fourth line, the only trio that plays together consistently, and even then, the explanations both the players and the coach gave were all about that consistency.
Derek Grant said, “If you spend enough time with someone, you get used to their tendencies and you build that chemistry, and Deslauriers has played quite a few games with us (Grant and Rowney) this year, and quite a few of the last ten or so, and we’ve started to build something and understand the way we play and the way we need to play.”
Still, watch Friday when the Capitals come to Honda Center, and you’ll see it again. Centers shifted around. Wingers on opposite sides. Wingers on the third line when they’d been on the first. Nobody quite knowing what their center is going to do next.
This despite what Coach Eakins said about his fourth line on Monday night: “They’re to be trusted. That’s for sure. They do everything that’s asked of them. They play a very, very simple game, and I think playing a simple game has a great advantage. Those guys, tonight, leading the way, was very important to our success.”
But at times, from a distance, it looks like the guys on the ice will never learn each other’s tendencies, and they won’t if they keep playing with different guys every night.
So the Ducks had Max Jones out and Devin Shore in, on the left wing of line one. He was with Getzlaf at center and Troy Terry on right wing.
On the second line were the same two wingers as prior, Rakell and Silfverberg, but centered by Sam Steel rather than Adam Henrique, who found himself on the third line with Nick Ritchie, who was on the left wing, and Ondrej Kase.
You’ll also note that Kase and Ritchie have, at various times, and lately, been on the first line, though not at the same time necessarily.
But to reiterate, the only line that stayed the same of late and was identical on this night was the fourth: Nicolas Deslauriers, Derek Grant, and Carter Rowney.
And guess what? They were the line that produced. By the end of the contest, Grant had the first goal and the final one, Rowney had one, and the line had accounted for five points.
The first of those goals came from Grant early in the game. The Ducks’ second goal came from Silfverberg, on the power play. That alone is a bit of a miracle, as the Ducks came in 30th in the league in that category. It was a one-for-one evening, this being the only chance, but IH asked Eakins about whether he saw the PP starting to come together.
He responded, “You always feel nice when you had one shot at it, and you get a goal. That’s a positive. Those were some new units tonight that we’re looking at. But yeah, we spent the last, even this morning in the morning skate, we were after it. We were after it yesterday in practice, so we’ll see where it goes. Hopefully that goal makes them feel good and we can build off that.”
The excitement in the game mostly happened in the second period, when the teams traded goals in a me-first started by the Kings. They scored at about six minutes. The Ducks got it back as that one was being announced. Later on, just shy of twelve minutes, the Kings got that one back when Nikolai Prokhorkin took a puck through the center of the Ducks’ zone, split two guys, and went forehand-backhand with it before putting it into the net. That was assisted by Sean Walker and Tyler Toffoli. Prokhorkin’s goal was the fourth of the year and the second in two nights for the Russian. Prior to the last game, he had sat two, so the scoring might be his way of saying he wants to stay in the lineup.
Hmmmm… a Russian who sits and then goes back in and scores. Sounds like an LA movie story. Ilya Kovalchuk wishes he had such a chance, but there he was, blue jacket and skinny pants adorned, in the press box watching alongside LaDue. Surely someday, he’ll be good enough to crack the lineup of the worst team in the West, right?
Enough. Period two ended 3-2. The Ducks added a late empty-netter on a nice play by Grant to get free and keep a loose puck away from the Kings. He lofted it from afar and got his second, as was said. He now has eight goals on the season.
One interesting side note to the fourth line story. Eakins said after the game that the trio should not be satisfied. “They’ve got room to get better, and I don’t want anybody to settle for what they’ve been in the past, or what they see themselves being. If you’ve just kind of settled in, ‘I’m going to be a second or third line center,’ let’s say, that’s not a great plan. You should be always pushing to be better every day. That’s the one thing with that group of three there, they’ve come in and tried to get better every day.”
That’s maybe because they know who they’ll play with.
The Kings again outshot an opponent. This time it was 36-20. But many of those were wristers right into the breadbasket. Time to shoot for the corners?
The Kings have Washington in Staples at 7pm on Wednesday. Note the early start, LA fans. Anaheim is off until Friday, when Ovechkin cruises down the 5 freeway to take them on.