After defeating the Phoenix Coyotes, the Ducks had 2 games left on their 3 game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks. They came away with victories in both games, extending their home record to a perfect 8-0 and extending their league leading point total to 31 with a record of 15-3-1. Frederik Andersen played in both games and improved his record to 6-0 in his young career.
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The wins against Buffalo and Vancouver were 2 very different games. Against Buffalo, the Sabres were buried quickly and efficiently. The end result was rarely in doubt, especially once Getzlaf took the game over. Against Vancouver, the Ducks had much more of a struggle. The Canucks played a very strong road game. They clogged the neutral zone and just mucked things up for the Ducks. The game didn't have much flow to it. There was also the added surprises of Getzlaf and Hiller not playing. Getzlaf was out with a lower body injury and Hiller had the flu, so Maroon and Andersen played in their places.
After the 1st period against Buffalo, the Ducks had a 4-1 lead thanks to their powerplay and Ryan Getzlaf's 1st career hat trick. He scored once on the pp and chipped in 2 more goals at even strength, and Fowler had the other pp goal. Other than a brief miscue that led to the Sabres closing the gap to 2-1, the Ducks were in control of the 1st period and never let the Sabres have a chance. The outshot the Sabres 22 to 7 in the opening 20 minutes.
After the 1st period against Vancouver, the game was tied at 0 and the Canucks had outshot the Ducks 13 to 5. That was one of the worst, if not the worst period that the Ducks have played at home this season. It's not that they played poorly or that Vancouver dominated the play, it's simply that Vancouver did an excellent job of throwing pucks at Andersen and clogging the passing lanes, making it difficult for the Ducks to get chances. And, because of the Getzlaf injury, the lines were all jumbled up, and I think that made it difficult for the team to get a rhythm early on in the game. Despite the injuries, the Ducks have had pretty stable lines this season, but with Getzlaf out, they were pretty much all in disarray. The defensive play of the period (and the game) has to go to Daniel Winnik. With Andersen down and scrambling to recover, a Vancouver player was skating behind the net, trying for the wraparound goal. Winnik literally dove forward and knocked the puck away as he was coming around to the front of the net. It was a great play from an underrated player. With Getzlaf out, he moved to center the Ducks 3rd line in this game and did a great job (except in the faceoff circle). While he isn't an ideal center for the Ducks, the fact that he can step into that roll and play a good game when it's needed is a huge boost to this team, and this play shows why.
In the 2nd period against Buffalo, the Ducks came out hard again, and were rewarded with 2 goals from Penner and Cogliano. The goal gave Penner his 4th point of the night. Rickard Rakell assisted on Cogliano's goal, giving him his 1st career point in the NHL. The Sabres did manage to score a goal. There was a 3 on 2, Fowler went to make a hit and the play became a 2 on 1. Vatanen wasn't able to stop the pass the Sabres scored on a pretty passing play. But, other than that 1 moment, the Sabres were kept in the check for the rest of the period.
In the 2nd period against Vancouver, each team finally got on the board. Francois Beauchemin shot the puck from the point, it took a couple of funny bounces and popped up into the air and hit Corey Perry's helmet. He headed the puck to the ice and batted it in for his team leading 11th goal of the season. This is actually the 2nd goal that I can remember him using his head on. A couple years ago (I think against Boston) the puck actually went into the net after hitting his head 1st. The shift when the Ducks scored, and the couples shifts before that, were the best shifts of the game so far. The Ducks were finally putting consistent pressure on Vancouver's goalie. Before that moment, the Ducks had chances, but no sustained pressure. They finally got it and were rewarded with a goal. Later in the period the Canucks tied the game off a great cross crease pass. Andersen had no chance on it, and in fact came quite close to making the save. Allen wasn't able to block the pass and Sbisa wasn't able to catch up to the goal scorer, and the game was tied. With just under a minute left, Hampus Lindholm sent a perfect pass to Perry from his own defensive zone all the way up to the Canucks blueline. Perry broke into the zone and fed Emerson Etem. Using his speed, he busted down the wing and drew the defense and goaltender to him, and then fed Nick Bonino in the slot for an easy goal. 3 great passes made this goal happen. And, even though he didn't get a point on the play, I have to give an honorary assist to Lindholm for that goal. The period ended with the Ducks up 2 to 1. The Ducks were outshot again, but only 16 to 11. That period was more wide open than the 1st, but the Canucks still did a very good job of creating traffic and making life difficult for the Ducks, but the Ducks did a much better job of responding to it in the 2nd.
The Sabres switched goalies as the 3rd period started. Ryan Miller was pulled and Jonas Enroth was put in to finish the game. There was no scoring in the 3rd, both teams were playing just to get out with no injuries. Selanne has some amazing chances but just couldn't find the back of the net. Getzlaf played just over 14 minutes in this game. After the big lead, Boudreau decided to rest him a lot after the 1st period since he was no longer needed. The Ducks didn't cruise to the win in the 3rd period, but it was certainly much less hard fought than the previous 40 minutes.
The final period against Vancouver was much more frantic. At the start of the period, Vancouver did something that I consider to be a huge compliment to the Ducks. The Sedin twins were split up. Together, they make up one of the most lethal duos in the NHL. Some of their passes look downright supernatural. By splitting them up Vancouver was saying that yes, you have beaten the Sedin's, now we are going to try and spread the offense out and see if it works. I consider this to be a huge compliment to the Andersen and the defense. They forced the breakup up of such a great pairing. Both teams tightened up defensively, allowing only 7 shots apiece. In the end, Andersen made a few great saves and Cogliano put the game away with an empty netter (thankfully, he wasn't limping off the ice this time), his 3rd goal in as many games.
2 games, 2 wins. One dominant, one not so dominant, but both ended with the Ducks walking away with 2 points. As the Ducks embark on their next great road trip (it's only 4 games through the Eastern Conference this time), hopefully they level of play will be closer to what it was against Buffalo and not Vancouver. That being said, even when the Ducks don't play their best game (and are without their best player), they have proved that they can still win.
Quick injury update. It sounds like Saku Koivu has had some setbacks and is not accompanying the team to Florida. Maybe he'll rejoin them later, but for now, Koivu is out indefinitely. Both Viktor Fasth and Matt Beleskey have been assigned to Norfolk on a conditioning assignment, so I would expect both of them to be back with the Ducks before this road trip is over. Meaning, that some players will probably be sent down the AHL to make room for them. It's not clear who yet, but I'll keep an eye on it.
After missing the 1st month of the season, Luca Sbisa has played in the last 4 games. He has played about 18 minutes a game and has 1 assist with an even rating. He hasn't been great, but he's impressed me with not looking too out of place after missing so much time. He's made some mistakes, but overall, he looks to be a good, physical addition to this team. But, with Sbisa being healthy, Sami Vatanen has been sitting more often than not. He would be in, but of the 2 rookie blueliners on this team, Lindholm has been the better one through the start of the season, so he has been playing every night since Sbisa came back. I wouldn't be surprised if Vatanen went to Norfolk for a little while, to make sure that kept getting playing time.
Finally, the Ducks have signed center David Steckel to a 1 year, 2 way contract. He's been playing in Norfolk on an AHL contract. But, with the rash of injuries in Anaheim and Getzlaf going down, the Ducks have brought him in as an insurance marker. Though the team did beat Vancouver, their faceoff numbers weren't great, and having him at center instead of Winnik would help in that regard.
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