Well, I was finally able to watch most of a Ducks game (some electrical issues kept me blacked out through the 1st 12ish minutes), so I can finally do my next game write up. Last night, the New York Islanders came to the Pond. They had lost 9 straight road games, and the Ducks were coming home from a successful road trip that saw them pick up wins against 2 of the NHL's elite, Chicago and St. Louis. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for a let down game, and it started out that way. But thanks to some amazing indvidual efforts and 3 amazing goals, the Ducks walked away with a 5-2 victory at home and improve their home record to 11-0-2.
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Before I get started, I just want to give a shoutout to the Islanders top line of Tavares, Okposo, and Vanek. They looked great against the Ducks and accounted for both of the Islanders goals and there were several times where they almost broke the game open for the Islanders.
As usual, I'll start out with the negatives for the Ducks, and then move on to the positives.
And the 1st thing that I have to touch on was the Ducks dreadful 1st period. Though I missed a good chunk of it, from what it sounded like, the Ducks did not come to play at the start of the game. Through 20 minutes of hockey, the Ducks only had 7 shots on goal, and none in the opening 10 minutes. At the start of the season, the Ducks would begin home games on fire, and need to get back to playing that way if they want to continue their dominance on home ice. The Ducks were lucky to be tied at 1 after the 1st period.
While no where near as bad as the start of the 1st, the Ducks did not start the 2nd period off well either. The Ducks did have some good, early pressure, but the Islanders had a few great chances as well, and got lucky on some (like when Taveres shot high on a 2 on 1 break). And then, about 4 minutes into the period, the Islanders took their 2nd lead of the night. Tavares won the draw, and Vanek got a shot off right away in the slot, beating Hiller. The Ducks 3rd line did not manage to tie up Tavares in the circle, or prevent Vanek from getting his shot off.
Mark Fistric had 5 hits through the 1st period, and didn't play after that. As has become tradition this season, a Ducks player (especially defenseman) has gone down with injury. He will miss tonight's game against Minnesota, but will hopefully be back by this weekend.
Finally, I have to touch on the faceoffs. The Ducks started the year off with very good numbers in the faceoff circle, but their winning percentage has taken a significant downturn in the last month or so. Against the Islanders the Ducks did win 27 draws, but lost 35 of them. One of those losses led to the Islanders 2nd goal. With Perreault out, the rest of the Ducks need to step up. In particular, Koivu needs to win more draws, he has not been as good in the faceoff circle since he came back from injury, so I'm hoping that he is still getting up to speed. And both Getzlaf and Bonino have seen their numbers drop significantly in recent games. That being said, Getzlaf did win 58% of his draws last night, so he held his own in the circle.
And now, to what the Ducks did right. And I have to start with the comeback. Twice, the Ducks fell behind by 1 goal and didn't let that deter them. In the 1st, Cam Fowler blasted a puck into the goalie, and it squirted free and Koivu pounced on it, forcing the puck over the line just before the net came off. In the 2nd period, Daniel Winnik made a fantastic behind the back pass that went through 3 Islanders and right on to the tape of Andrew Cogliano who tied the game up.
Cam Fowler had an amazing game. He played a team high 25 minutes and 16 seconds, scored a shorthanded goal (which was also the gamewinner) and added 2 assists. But it was the goal that really stands out. While shorthanded and with 40 seconds left in the period, he poked the puck away from an Islanders player along the boards right to Matt Beleskey. Immediately, the 2 of them and Nick Bonino jumped up the ice on a 3 on 1 break. Beleskey took the shot, the goalie couldn't control the rebound, and Fowler pounced on loose puck and gave the Ducks their 1st lead of the hockey game with just over 30 seconds left in the period. It was a great defensive and offensive play by the young blueliner.
Corey Perry scored 2 goals, the 2nd of which was on the powerplay and extended his goal scoring streak to 6 games, tying him for the 3rd longest goal scoring streak in franchise history with Paul Kariya. But it was the 1st goal that was truly special. After serving a penalty that he felt was undeserved (he deserved it, but so did one of the Islanders players, and they weren't in the box), which Fowler scored during, he came out of the box pissed off. Daniel Winnik entered the zone and made a drop pass to Perry. He immediately took the puck to the slot, going around an Islanders player and getting tripped in the process. He didn't give up on the play, and from his knees he fired a shot to the top corner of the net, beating the goalie glove side and giving the Ducks a 2 goal lead, 31 seconds after Fowler had given the Ducks the lead.
Daniel Winnik assisted on 3 of the Ducks 5 goals. For the Ducks 1st goal, he chased an Islander behind the net and poked the puck free to Fowler. He then ripped a hard shot off and Koivu potted home the rebound. His 2nd assist (as mentioned above) was just a gorgeous no look pass that I would expect to see from Getzlaf or Perry. The puck went through 3 Islanders players and by the goalie and right onto the tape of Andrew Cogliano. And of course, his final assist was on Perry's amazing goal. He assisted on both goals that tied the game and was huge reason why the Ducks never trailed by more than 1 goal in this game.
I have to mention Tim Jackman. Early in the 2nd period, the Ducks iced the puck, but he started skating at full speed and won the race to the puck, nullifying the call and giving possession of the puck back to the Ducks. It was a great hustle play from an under appreciated player. He also almost scored in the game a couple of times as well. He has turned into a surprisingly nice addition to the Ducks lineup, something that I was not expecting when the Ducks picked him up.
Just as it has done all season, the defensive core really stepped up when Fistric went down with injury. Defensive pairings were rotated all night, and they all played big minutes, but the time was also quite spread out. Sami Vatanen's 18:55 was the lowest of the 5 healthy defenseman, with Fowler's 25+ being the highest. They did a good job of limiting the Islanders chances late in the game and blocked a ton of shots. And, as has been the case all season, Hampus Lindholm continues to impress me with his smart play both with the puck and away from the puck. This kid could turn into a real stud for the team.
Finally, I have to mention the Ducks special teams. What was the bane of this teams existence at the start of the season has turned around nicely in the last month or so. After being at the bottom of the league in both powerplay and penalty kill percentage, the Ducks have climbed to 18th in pp % and 20th in pk %. While still not great numbers, the Ducks special teams are much improved, and the game against the Islanders showed it. While the Islanders did score a powerplay goal, it was kept off the scoresheet in the other 3 chances and the Ducks were able to score a shorthanded goal. And in only 2 chances, the Ducks powerplay connected once.
With the win, the Ducks extended their point streak at home to 13 games, with an 11-0-2 record on the season. The Ducks are the only team to not lose in regulation at home this season. The Ducks didn't play their best game against the Islanders and had a pretty terrible 1st period. When Minnesota comes into the Pond tonight, the Ducks are going to have to be much better if they want to keep that point streak alive.
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