What are the Ducks doing? Sitting in second to last place in their conference despite have won three games straight coming into action Wednesday. Playing the Washington Capitals as if they actually had a chance to beat them. Nearly doing just that but getting a point anyway. Letting through a ton of shots as they do every night, then seeing John Gibson make a valiant effort and turn most of them away.
Versus Washington at home, the contest was close. The Ducks allowed an early goal, then got one back in the form of a Troy Terry wrister that went up into the top corner of the net past Darcy Kuemper. At the end of two periods, the game was 1-1, but John Gibson had done his usual heroics in stopping 29 shots. Kuemper had turned away 12. That’s about right—the Ducks routinely (hard to believe I’m saying this) allow more than 40 shots on goal in a game. Helps keep Gibson’s save percentage high, though. (Do the math.)
After the game, IH asked Coach Eakins about this night-after-night shot disparity. He got snappish. “I care about the score.” That must be hard to do when you lose so many games, but he’s the one whose job is on the line, and he’s got to be counting the games (around 20 left) until his head rolls. That would make a guy testy, right?
What else are the Ducks doing?
Welcoming Troy Terry back from injury. He missed a few games, but has resumed his offensive threat, now sitting in second place behind Zegras with 17-30-47 points. Zegras has 20-32-50. He got that milestone 20th versus the Caps. He also spent a good deal of period two on the bench after running his mouth to the point where he left the referee no choice but to give him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Welcoming JS Giguere back, with a short video tribute and an appearance of “Giggy” on the big video board, all smiles. IH spotted him in the hallway outside the Ducks’ room after the game, looking good, and happy to be there.
Seeing their NHL rookie phenom, Mason McTavish, excel. He’s third in team scoring, albeit a bit distant from the aforementioned two, with 13-23-36 points. He is second among NHL rookies at that number, though. Seattle’s Matty Beniers lead the league in that regard. But McTavish is heating up. In the last 30 games (prior to Wednesday), he has 21 points. He also leads the Ducks on the power play, with five goals.
Hanging in there against a skilled Washington team. The Ducks kept the score tied most of the contest, knotting it at two when they could have given in to defeat because Washington scored with eight seconds gone in period three. The Ducks ended up outshooting Washington in the third period, 10-8, to create a reverse from norm. But on the night, it was 39-23. (Though remember, shots don’t matter, per Eakins. Whatever.)
Deploying their middleweight to handle the Caps’ heavyweight. That’s Nathan Beaulieu versus Tom Wilson. No apparent reason why this violent episode had to happen, but it went on a long time, with Beaulieu looking the worse for wear with a cut on the nose at the end. Surprisingly, it was Wilson who exited down the tunnel after the affair. He would return to finish his five minutes in the box. Maybe it was an equipment issue. He was good enough to score the winning goal, in OT, on a play where he crashed the net and had the puck come to him for a redirection off the outside of his skate blades and then a tap in with his stick.
Flirting around with being minus-100 for the season. Now it’s -97, but that’s not far from the century mark, and it’s way, way worse than the next two, Columbus -66, and Chicago -67). That’s half a goal a game worse for the Ducks. But give him credit, if it weren’t for John Gibson, who was third star on the night, it would have been 4-2 or 5-2, and the goal diff would be horrible, if such play were multiplied night after night.
Dealing with trade bait. Both John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov are being held out for trade deadline purposes. In their places were two seldom-seens, Scott Harrington (239 career games; on his third team for the year) and Colton White (65 games, 28 this year). The coach naturally complimented them for being solid in the game, but they were mostly invisible.
Waiting until Friday to see how much more decimated they can get via trades. And each Duck, worrying about his future. Or perhaps expectant. Why would they not want to go to a team that played some defense (Gibson)?
In short, this is at times an exciting team to watch, though they sure don’t play very well in the defensive aspects of the game. But there’s enough intrigue to keep them alive in their fans’ imaginations, if not in the league standings.
Pat Verbeek, the GM, got on the elevator with a briefcase full of papers after Wednesday’s game. What that translates to in terms of deadline deals is anyone’s guess.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.