The Ducks have started their 5 game homestand with a 2-0 record. They absolutely destroyed the New York Rangers 6-0 in their home opener and followed that up with a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on a night that saw the Mighty Ducks fly again.
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I won't say much about the game against the Rangers. For whatever reason, that team was a mess this week. Between losing to the Ducks and Sharks, the Rangers were outscored by a margin of 15-2. As a team they are clearly not all there, and the Ducks took complete advantage of them. The play that sums it up the most was the Ducks 4th goal. I have no idea what the Rangers defense or goalie were thinking, all I know is that was one of the ugliest goals that I have ever seen scored. The Rangers are a better team than that game, but for that night, they were awful, and the Ducks didn't let them have any life. As a Ducks fan, it was fun to watch, who doesn't like to see their team score a bunch of goals in the home opener? But it also was a poor game to get a handle on how good or bad this team really is.
While the Senators put forth a better effort, I would argue that the Ducks dominated them even more than they did the Rangers. Putting a franchise record 56 shots on goal, the Ducks were simply the better team. In the 1st period alone the Ducks put 24 shots on net, and followed that up with 21 shots in the 2nd period. And if not for some absurd saves by Robin Lehner (who I thought was the best player on the ice for either team), the Ducks could easily have 6 or 7 goals, if not more.
So, what can these two lopsided victories tell us about how good the Ducks really are? A decent amount actually. I'm certainly not going to proclaim the Ducks the best team in the league, I don't think they are close to that. But, they do have a lot of talent, especially on the wing, and more down the middle than most people (myself included) suspect. And the blueline, while young and untested, can be very dangerous.
As always, I'll start with the bad. And apart from a power play that can't score, there wasn't much. In those two games, the Ducks went 0 for 12 on the powerplay. That being said, especially against Ottawa, the powerplay looked incredibly dangerous. Part way through the 2nd period of the Ottawa game, the Ducks had 12 shots on their powerplay, from defenseman alone. And most of these weren't easy shots, both Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm were just firing the puck like mad all night. They both have excellent shots and made Lehner's life miserable. And Fowler, much more known for his skating than his shooting, had a couple of really nice shots as well. So even though it didn't score in those 2 games, the Ducks powerplay looked very dangerous, and if it keeps playing like this, I'm not worried about it putting the puck in the net.
And that's really it for what went wrong for the Ducks in those 2 games. The powerplay went 0 for 12, but they scored 10 even strength goals, which is a tradeoff that I'll take. 10 goals in 2 games usually equals at least 1, if not 2 wins. While certainly not a guarantee, if the Ducks could somehow keep scoring like this, every team in the league would fear them.
The best part of these 2 games was the offensive depth that the Ducks showed. 7 different players scored the 10 goals. It's not just one player, or even one line getting it done for the Ducks, it is literally all 4 lines scoring. The 1st line accounted for 5 of the goals (Getzlaf with 1 in each game, Perry with 2 against Ottawa, and Penner with 1 against NYR), the 2nd line had 2 goals (both from Silfverberg against NYR), the 3rd line 2 goals (Winnik against NYR and Koivu against Ottawa), and the 4th line had 1 goal (Bonino against Ottawa). And every single one of these lines could have had more goals if not some great saves. Perry could have had a hat trick against Ottawa, Teemu could have scored in either game, Palmieri and Etem fed off each other and gave each other great chances against Ottawa, and Cogliano had several great chances in both games. The Ducks forwards look dangerous right now, and are putting the puck in the net almost at will.
Through the 1st couple games of the season, Corey Perry was a non factor for the Ducks. And he needed to be better. I was hoping that if he scored just 1 goal, it would get him going. And so far, it has. After receiving that gift goal against Winnipeg, he played a strong game against the Rangers and picked up 2 assists. And against Ottawa he scored 2 goals, and should have had a hat trick, if not 4 goals, but Lehner robbed him a couple times. One of them people are already talking about as a save of the year candidate, and I have to agree, that save was just amazing.
While the forwards are getting things done offensively, the Ducks defense was stellar in both games. The only goal given up was to former Duck Bobby Ryan, who, as Ducks fans know, is excellent at finding those open areas and banging the puck in. And that's exactly what he did, off an absurd pass from Kyle Turris. If not for an amazing pass and Bobby finding that sweet spot, Hiller posts 2 shut outs in a row. And he would have to give large thanks to the defense in front of him.
Against the Rangers, both Vatanen and Allen had a +5 rating, tying a franchise record. And while I'll be the 1st to say that the +/- stat is flawed, when a player finishes a game with +5 rating, it shows that there were doing a lot right on the ice. Both made great passes, Allen through some monstrous hits, and Vatanen even took a few hits to make the play. Both of them finished the game with an assist and a shot on goal. And against Ottawa, both played even better, Vatanen especially. He registered 7 shots on goal, and many of them were very high quality. Against the Rangers, Vatanen played just over 19 minutes, but against Ottawa, he played over 22 minutes, 2nd only to Cam Fowler on the team in terms of ice time. And every time he was on the ice, you knew it. He just took shot after shot. He is going to score a lot of goals if he keeps playing like this.
The other standout defenseman was Hampus Lindholm. His 1st career game was against Winnipeg, where he played very well and finished a +1. He looked very calm on the ice. Against the Rangers, he was also a +1 and played over 21 minutes. But it was against Ottawa that his game went to another level entirely. He picked up his 1st career point on Getzlaf's goal. He had the puck at the point, waited for traffic to develop in front of the net, and then released the puck. He didn't just get the puck and shoot it, he waited until the goalie could barely see the puck, if at all, and then fired it. With the goalie unable to control the rebound, Getzlaf managed to bang the rebound in. But it was his 2nd assist of the night that was a thing of beauty. He picked off an Ottawa pass at center ice, streaked up the right wing side, went around an Ottawa player, and fed Perry with a perfect pass. It's a play that a lot of skilled forwards would struggle with getting right every time. And Lindholm is just a 19 year old rookie playing in his 3rd career NHL game. To me, it was the play of the night.
While I know that neither Lindholm nor Vatanen will continue to play this well every night, the fact that they can be so young and dominate games is a great sign for the future of the Ducks defense. Whenever Sbisa gets healthy, Lindholm was my pick to go back to the AHL. But at this point, I wouldn't send him down. I wouldn't even scratch him when Sbisa comes back. Both of these 2 rookies have earned their spot on this team. Things could very well change, but they have both played a couple of wonderful games and have earned their chance to earn a full time spot with the Ducks.
And finally, I have to mention the play of Jonas Hiller. Against the Rangers he saved all 34 shots he faced, including 17 in the 3rd period, when the rest of the Ducks weren't playing as hard. The Ducks weren't letting the Rangers back into the game, but they did let off the pressure, allowing the Rangers to get some good shots in on Hiller. And he was equal to the task. And against Ottawa, apart from 1 goal that no goalie is going to stop, he was spectacular again. While he faced only 31 shots, I would argue that he made more high quality saves against Ottawa than he did against New York. He is also the 1st goalie for the Ducks this season to play in consecutive games. While I think the goaltending battle is far from over in Anaheim, I think it's clear that Hiller has laid claim to the position of the #1 netminder in Anaheim, for the time being. Both he and Fasth and very capable goalies, and both will have bad games, so I wouldn't expect Fasth to sit for long. But I think that based upon how he played the last 2 games, Hiller has to be the Ducks starter on Wednesday against the Calgary Flames. He looked confident on the ice and absolutely robbed Erik Karlsson late in the 3rd. He had a glorious opportunity to get Ottawa back in the game, but Hiller completely robbed him.
All in all, as a team, the Ducks played 2 outstanding games against 2 teams that are struggling. This will not be the outcome every night, but if the Ducks play like this in most games, they are going to win a lot of games this season.
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