What do you think of the mutual opponent hypothesis? What’s that? The idea that if team A and team B each play team C, then whoever does better against team C would do better against the other, as well.

If it’s anything to go by, the Anaheim Ducks are in a sweet spot right now, and the LA Kings are in big, big trouble.

Saturday afternoon, the New Jersey Devils rolled into Staples Center for 1pm. They scored an early shorthanded goal. They scored two goals on their first four shots in period one. They killed five Kings’ power plays in that same period. And they ended up shutting out the Kings 3-0.

Sunday afternoon (or early evening, depending upon how fancy-European you time your dinner), those same Devils rolled into Anaheim. They appeared to score at the 16-second mark of period one, but had the play ruled offside. Then they allowed two goals, both at even strength.

Let’s not make this all about the Devils, though, because the truth of it is, the Ducks rolled over them after the early scare on that non-goal. (Would have been poetic, too, because the person who scored the disallowed goal was Sami Vatanen, traded from the Ducks to the Devils for Adam Henrique back in the fall.)

The Ducks were on it. They blasted 17 shots in period one, to six for New Jersey. The chances were all in their favor, too, except for one. That was a two-on-one by Taylor Hall and Travis Zajak that Zajak saw John Gibson get a piece of.

The rest of it was all Anaheim. It started in the first shift, with Cogliano’s line getting feisty with the puck. A few minutes later, Cogliano got it on the right side. He shot. Rebound. Silfverberg couldn’t scoop the rebound.

The Ducks scored on the next play. Perry sent the puck across to Rakell, who got a shot off. Save, and a rebound that went way out into the slot, was whacked by a NJ defenseman, and went to Getzlaf coming down the slot late. He had an open net—goalie Keith Kinkaid was out of position. Getzlaf put it long into the open net. No assists were granted.

The Cogliano line then had another shift where they were all over the ice. No goals. The Getzlaf line was out there again, the puck went to the net, and it sat out in front of Kinkaid’s glove, but they couldn’t whack it into the net.

They saw the Zajak play mentioned earlier, then the Ducks went back to work. Silfverberg dug a puck out from behind the net, set it up to the point, to Cogliano. He zipped it over to Lindholm, who put it to Manson. The shot was redirected into the net by the shaft of Silfverberg’s stick.

The Ducks next survived a penalty. Then the Getzlaf line got out and created more havoc with about six minutes left. Then Nick Ritchie, who scored a goal Friday night, took a wicked long, low shot to the far side of the net from where he was standing, watching it roll through the goalie and out to the left of the net.

If you’re keeping track, that means that every line but the fourth was dangerous in this period. Kind of nice to build on a game where all four lines scored one goal, as had happened Friday as well.

Near the end of the period the Ducks took another minor, then added one on to make it 5-on-3 for 1:26 to start the third.This didn’t even hurt. They killed it, and it took New Jersey until just past midway to score. That was on the power play, Palmieri getting the tally. The Devils were better than in the first as period two wound on. Blake Coleman made a nice stop-start stutter step move and fired low and wide.

Their goal on the power play was for too many men, and there was no question. Anaheim had a guy jump off to try to avert it, but they had six men free and clear at one point. The Devils took a penalty of their own in the period, Vatanen for hooking. They turned this into a two-on-one versus the Ducks, rendering the PP ineffectual. This wasn’t helped by Getzlaf breaking his stick in the New Jersey end.

Period three saw the Ducks score, former Duck Patrick Maroon return the favor, and the Ducks get the ice goal at midway.

The Ducks were rolling Rakell flipped the puck towards Henrique in the crease hoping for a redirect. Didn’t happen.

New Jersey had a good shift near the midway point, the puck going low from Vatanen to Maroon. At that point, it was still 3-2, and the shots were 33-15 in Anaheim’s favor.

Then the goal. It was a bit of a crusher, too, as the Maroon goal had come just 46 seconds before. Read that this way: just when you get the game to 3-2 and think you’re getting some momentum back, just when they’re announcing your goal, blaaaahhh goes the goal horn, and the other team is up two goals once more.

 

Things got a little bit testy around that same time. Maroon and Getzlaf took roughing penalties at 10:51 in an almost-fight. This just after the Rakell goal, scored at that same time point. What was the point? Not sure. Getzlaf went to the box pretty fast. Maroon took a while longer.

So what’s the comparison between the Kings and Ducks? One thing that would mitigate the Ducks’ win as saying something about who is better might be that the Devils were tired due to back-to-backs. But Maroon said, “This time of the year, you shouldn’t be tired. You should be yourself, be ready to play every night. Have your legs. Even if you don’t have your legs, you have your head. You have your smarts.”

He would later add, “They’re a good team over there. We’re a good team. They were just a little better tonight.”

One for the Ducks.

Maroon said, “There should be no panic. We’re in a good situation right now. This is fun. It’s exciting. Next game, we just go out there and do it again.”

His coach, John Hynes, wasn’t apologizing for the loss. And he wasn’t taking the “We did OK given the circumstances” line. “Anaheim played a heck of a game. They were very thorough. They deserved to win the game. Sometimes you have to give credit to the opponent for how well they play. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. Our puck movement didn’t allow us to access our speed.”

Did the Ducks have anything to do with that? “We were not sharp enough and competitive enough,” Hynes said. He said, “I think we’ve got to learn from (this game). . . . You have to get to your game, and we didn’t do that tonight. Part of that was us, and part of that was what Anaheim did tonight.”

So what does this tell us about the Ducks versus the Kings? Well, listen to Randy Carlyle and see what you think. “We had a great start, and we had to have a great start. They played yesterday afternoon, and we had to have a lot of energy going.”

He was also complimentary of his team keeping the New Jersey shot totals down, and kill penalties. The Ducks took give, though the last was the offsetting one to Getlaf/Maroon, as mentioned.  New Jersey was thus one-for-four on the PP.

So the Ducks beat the Devils because they played better than New Jersey did. The Kings lost to the Devils because they laid an egg.

So who’s better?

 

Notes

Josh Manson was hurt and did not finish the game. The Ducks will assess before the road trip.

Who’s doing well for Anaheim? John Gibson has three straight wins and is 9-2-0 in this last 11 games. He is the league leader is GAA at 1.84 and save percentage at .940 since the NHL All-Star game.

Getzlaf had his 16th multi-point game of the year. He has points in eight of nine games. Rakell has 19 multi-point games and 14 points in the last ten games.

Brandon Montour, who scored two goals the other night, now has three in three games and five game-winning goals this year. This leads all NHL defensemen. He is also tied for the franchise lead with Oleg Tverdovsky and Niclas Havelid. At least his name is easier to spell.

Several Anaheim defensemen are at or near the 30-point plateau.

Seen and heard: Vatanen and Fowler sharing a big hug and an “I miss you buddy” from Vatanen after the game.

Lots of tie-ins in this game. Think about this: every goal scorer is or at one time was a Duck. And most of those who gained assists, too.

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