The Anaheim Ducks are not scoring goals. Sometimes, they win anyway, by the slimmest margin, 1-0. This has happened twice in nine games to start the season. But having played those nine coming into Saturday with St. Louis in town, they had just 14 tallies, against 17 goals against. Hard to believe that they were at NHL .500 despite that fact. The numbers would get worse for Anaheim as the night wore on. so it was unlikely that, having played 2:06 and being down by three goals, that they would win. And they didn’t. The Blues ended things with a 6-1 score.
But the Ducks didn’t give up. They took the momentum back and dominated the last part of period one, including having a good starting shift on a power play.
But notice how that was said—they started the PP well. They didn’t finish it well. They allowed a two-on-one against. They played around with the puck in the neutral zone. The failed to produce.
Ryan Miller, by the way, was pulled into the net after John Gibson gave up the early third goal. No team has ever scored three that fast against Anaheim (and the St. Louis franchise has never started a game with that many goals that fast).
Miller was a bit shaky on an early shot that trickled by him and rolled past the post, but solid thereafter. In fact, two notable saves he would come to make in the second period kept the Ducks in the game. One was against Ryan Sanford, who put a wrist shot up high. The other came from the slot, a deke that Miller turned away.
But to go back to the first period, Getzlaf, captain of the team, took matters into his own hands in the momentum department after the sad start and 3-0 deficit, challenging, and fighting, Kyle Clifford. It would have been more to form to have the resident pugilist, Nick Deslauriers, take on the Blues’ bad boy, but Getzlaf did it as a matter of leadership, a reminder of a fight he and Joe Thornton had right off the opening faceoff in the playoffs some years ago. The tussle with Clifford was more of a hold-on, fall-down than a real set-to, but brave of the captain nonetheless. That happened at 3:31.
In his interview comments to end the first period, Getzlaf did not talk about that moment specifically, but he did point to his team having a strong finish of period one.
He might rather have been referencing how Max Jones pulled the Ducks to within 3-1 when he potted his first goal of the season from Rakell and Getzlaf at 16:59.
The Ducks looked much better much of the time in period two, though they were outshot, 12-10. The single goal of the period was David Perron’s for the Blues. It was not Miller’s fault, going off first Getzlaf in the high slot and then glancing in off the post, but Anaheim’s players have to answer for the fact that there were four of them stranded in the left corner when the puck was sent to the front of the net by O’Reilly.
The exciting moment of the period came when Max Comtois stole a puck at the blueline and streaked down the ice with a man on him. He deked Binnington and went to shooter’s right, tucked the puck, and just saw the skate of the goalie shoot out to direct it past the post, and Comtois’ thrusting stick as he sought to put him home.
The third period was essentially less of the same, for the Ducks, who allowed a further two goals and got none themselves.
The coach has been trying to light a fire under his team for days. He had given them the day off yesterday and forgiven them the morning skate this morning, something that’s not likely to happen again soon.
But let’s be realistic–things aren’t all bad. The Ducks lost to Arizona 3-2 on Thursday, but they had beaten Colorado and Arizona prior to that, and holding their own against the speedy Avalanche showed what they can do at their best.
But the goals, or lack thereof, are concerning. The Ducks’ point totals on the night were as follows: Jones, goal, Rakell and Getzlaf assists. I know, covered above. The team’s leader in scoring is Comtois. Behind him rank Carter Rowney and Getzlaf.
So what’s worth noting? Two players to spot in the losing Anaheim effort were David Backes, formerly of the Bruins and the Blues (for the first ten years of his NHL career) and Isac Lundestrom.
Backes played his first game of the year and 951stof his career, notching just under fifteen minutes. He came over from the Bruins in a trade last year where Ondrej Kase went the other way. Other player Alex Andersson and a first-round pick that turned out to be Jacob Perreault were also involved in that deal. Backes had three blocks, three hits, and one shot. He played both on the PP and shorthanded.
Lundestrom played the night before in the San Diego Gulls (AHL) uniform. He was a first-round Anaheim pick in 2018 and has 33 games of NHL experience now, three games this season. The Ducks have high hopes for him, as befitting his draft place. His numbers were 15:20 of ice time, two shots and one hit. He played on the PP and PK, though very scant time.
After the game, Getzlaf said, “Handling the puck, competing, these are the areas we have to get better in. The compete level has got to go through the roof. Against a team like that, it has to be being hard on pucks and making plays, especially early in hockey games.”
It took him a long time to exit the dressing room to get to the interview podium, which is suggestive of a team chat, but when asked, he allowed the question to slide by him, being the first of a two-parter that centered on team performance.
As was said, the Ducks had come off of two days’ rest, essentially, having Friday off and not skating Saturday morning before the game. You can bet that that’s over. They play St. Louis again tomorrow at 5pm, though, so chances are, there will be no punishment skate until after that game is over, if at all.
Brian Kennedy is an accredited NHL writer and a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. He reports from his SoCal home for the duration of the pandemic.