What year is this? Lou Lamoriello is standing behind the New Jersey bench coaching a team that is playing Scott Gomez against Ilya Bryzgalov in net—for the Anaheim Ducks. If you said 2006, you’d be right. And wrong. Because that was the oddity of the game featuring the Devils and the Ducks on Friday night in Anaheim.
More weird, from Ducks fans’ points of view was that Bryzgalov was wearing #80, representing his birth year, rather than his familiar #30 of prior days.
How’d he do? Early on, not as well as later. He let in a first-period goal with about five minutes to go, on a puck that came from more or less on the goal line and went across the crease, hit him in the leg, and went through the five-hole. The person next to me in the press box said, “That’s an Ilya Bryzgalov goal,” but my recollection is not that he is the quirky-goal type. That was more Fasth, who would look to the sky, or Hiller. Man, that drives a player crazy when he sees it.
Bryzgalov didn’t exactly pull himself together as much as the Devils stopped playing, and he thus was not tested in the second period, unless you count the one shot that the Devils registered in the early going. One other, with a couple of minutes to go, went off Bryzgalov’s glove hand, but it wasn’t counted as a shot, because it would have been going wide. Thus it was that the shot total after two periods showed the New Jersey squad with six. Six.
Meanwhile, the Ducks were pouring it on, registering 27 shots through two periods.
New Jersey goalie Corey Schneider took a shot off what appeared live to be the shoulder but which the tv-watching twitterers said was the mask, and stayed in the rest of the first period. (His backup said after the game that he thought it was the shoulder also.) But he didn’t appear on the ice to start the second, and was not, in fact, resident at the bench either. Thus it was that Keith Kinkaid stepped in to play the second frame. The Ducks early on seemed to have little respect for him, shooting away from all angles and putting two pucks by him early. He then settled in some and kept the score at 3-1 for the duration of the twenty minutes. The Anaheim team ended the period with 12 shots in the twenty minutes.
Temporary Coach Lamoriello said about his substitute netminder, “He handled it as good as could be expected, without getting any warmup or any shots, but that’s part of the game. You have to be ready when called upon.” He had been hit yesterday in practice, but he was fine, the coach said.
Kinkaid explained, “I didn’t feel very confident, or not confident, but very sharp there at the beginning of the second period, but you’ve got to come in there and do it whenever you’re called.” He indicated that he had no idea he’d be going in, not until it was nearly time to go on the ice. So what was the coach thinking? “I didn’t have a lot of time to get ready. I was a little cold out there, but you’ve got to be ready,” the netminder said.
When IH asked, he said that he, “Threw a few racquetballs, played catch with myself, but I also had to put the top stuff [equipment] on, so I didn’t get quite what I wanted [in terms of a warmup].”
He said that the problem was the light, the arena being dark. When IH asked him to compare his home arena with this one, or with the one in LA, where the Devils had been (and Kinkaid had been on the bench) two nights prior, he said, “My eyes had a hard time adjusting. I think it was a little dark out there, but it doesn’t matter what the setting is, you’ve got to play. As the game went on, it got a little better. This is definitely darker building than LA. My eyes weren’t adjusting like I wanted them to. Our arena (home) is a little brighter, and the Kings’ arena is definitely the brightest I’ve ever seen, I think, but no excuses.”
The Ducks were more on their game than they have been of late, though they beat the Leafs 4-0 on Wednesday night. But on Friday, their true puck-possession skill came to the fore. They held it and cycled, the line of Perry, Getzlaf, and Patrick Maroon particularly being impossible to strip. The team also managed to sustain all the offensive pressure, essentially getting New Jersey chasing and then never letting that pressure lag.
It’s a good sign—the Ducks have a tendency to play down to their opposition, especially with a lead. This evening, they seemed determined to stay on top of things, clearly desiring another goal even when they were up by two. Maybe they’ve finally learned to fear the close win, a lesson that their recent record should have reinforced. They had won six of their last ten games coming into Friday, and had one go to OT in a loss. But of those wins, four of six had gone to OT or a shootout. That’s pressing your luck.
The scoring was balanced through the lineup, too. The first came from Perry at regular strength. The second was a long wrister with a screen from Lindholm. The third goal came from tough play behind the net by Cogliano, who held the puck and dished it in the crease to Silfverberg, who slammed it in. It was good for the line, which often plays a good game but is collectively a minus-11 for the year, or was, before this marker. Silfverberg added another goal later, on the power play. Lindholm and Beauchemin assisted on that one.
On the subject of plus-minus, the Ducks have a couple of players way under even (Cogliano -8, Bourque -10) and a few way over (Perry +9, Beleskey +13, Lindholm +12). The Devils, if this indicates anything, have a load of guys in the multiple-minus category. These include Jon Merrill at -10, also Havlat and Jagr (not playing Friday) at the same negative number, Peter Harrold at -9, and Elias at a team-worse -14. The goal differential numbers coming into the evening showed the Ducks team at +7 and the Devils at -26.
The Devils did put on a push in period three, running their shot total up and forcing at least one aggressive save from Bryzgalov. He came way out to his right, challenging Michael Ryder and ultimately getting the puck from him and covering it. The crowd cheered loudly. The Devils, though, had had four shots in the first five minutes of the period. Lamoriello said that his team had put on a push in the early third, and that he was relatively happy with the game. “They just beat us to the puck. . . . I don’t think that we can be pleased with the first two periods,” he commented, but said also that of the last half-dozen games, the Devils have had just a couple that weren’t fantastic.
Boudreau of the Ducks said that his team was “backpedaling a little bit in that third period, but that’s hockey. Sometimes it just changes course in a quick minute.”
The Ducks had fewer chances than the Devils in P3, but great ones. Corey Perry circled the net and wristed one toward the net. Smith-Pelly snapped off a shot from the right slot and saw Kinkaid make a save off the right arm, his best of the night.
The period proceeded with the Ducks scoring two more goals, albeit late. The first, goal four of the game, was by Maroon. He took a pass as he went through the neutral zone and snapped a wrister off and clean beat Kinkaid, who was out at the top of his crease. He was then dumped into the boards behind the net for his trouble.
The final goal, to make it 5-1 and seal a 40-15 shot effort in the Ducks’ favor, came on the power play, quite late. It was that latter Silfverberg tally already accounted for above.
The three stars were, not surprisingly, Silfverberg third (thinking, not doubt, ‘what’s a guy gotta do to be first?’), Perry second, and finally Lindholm, who had a goal and an assist on the evening.
Coach Boudreau summed up his expectations for Saturday, when the Ducks play LA after Rob Blake’s retirement ceremony, saying, “We’ll know where we stand after tomorrow; that’s for sure.”
Hockey fans are mostly Gretzky fans, right? My new book, Facing Wayne Gretzky, might help you appreciate the guy in more specific detail. Thanks.