Over the past week the Ducks went 2-1 during a 3 game homestand. Despite the Ducks winning ways all 3 games showed that the Ducks have some serious issues to work out before the playoffs begin. As the regular season winds down the Ducks need to focus on playing well. Not necessarily the best they've been all season, but they do need to be playing well and giving a full 60 minute effort. Something that was not evident at all in any of the 3 games.
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Against the Winnipeg Jets the Ducks played terrible for the 1st 35 minutes of the game and were down 4-0. Frederik Andersen was in net for the Ducks and he did not play well through those 1st 35 minutes. The worst goal that he gave up was the 2nd goal of the night when he failed to control the rebound and the Jets scored. But on the other 3 goals he was left out to dry. The team defense was terrible. Sami Vatanen in particular had a rough night. His turnover, along with Andersen's poor rebound control, led to the Jets 2nd goal. In the 1st period alone, the Ducks had just 4 shots on goal, compared to 19 for Winnipeg. And the 2nd period didn't start out much better. The Jets were on the powerplay to start the period and Blake Wheeler got a breakaway, beating Andersen with a great move. On the 4th goal, Vatanen got stuck at the Jets bench (his stick was literally grabbed by a Jets player on the bench, preventing him from getting back on the play), and no other Duck covered for him and the Ducks were down 4-0 off of a nice pass. But then the Ducks started battling back and Nick Bonino got a backhand goal late in the period. And seconds after that goal was scored, Andersen had his best save of the night, keeping the Ducks in the game. After 2 period the Ducks had been outshot 31 to 11 and outscored 4 to 1. Things weren't looking good. But the team turned things around in the 3rd and absolutely dominated Winnipeg. Getzlaf got an early powerplay goal and Lindholm brought the Ducks within a goal just over a minute later. Finally, in the final seconds of the game Perry tied the game and then Robidas scored his 1st goal as a Duck in overtime to give the Ducks the win.
The win against Winnipeg was a franchise record 49th win and the biggest come from behind victory in franchise history. And if the Ducks had played better in the next 2 games, this game would not be so problematic, but many of the same issues that the Ducks faced in this game were carried over into the next 2. It was an exciting game and a great win, but it was not a well played game by the Ducks.
The Winnipeg Jets are a team fading from playoff contention but they were still fighting for a spot. The Edmonton Oilers are the worst team in the Western Conference, they are a team that the Ducks should be able to beat without any late game heroics. The Oilers are capable of beating the Ducks, just as they are capable of beating any team, but at this time of the season as the Ducks get ready for the playoffs the Oilers are the kind of team that the Ducks have no excuse to lose to, unless the opposing goaltender plays out of his mind (as Ben Scrivens of the Oilers did a week previously when he faced over 50 Ducks shots). The Ducks didn't start the game as poorly as they did against the Jets. They didn't look as uninterested and actually seemed to follow the puck well and Andersen was playing well. The Ducks did finish with 9 shots on goal, but only had 1 through the 1st 7 minutes of the period. For the 2nd game in a row the Ducks started out slow and did not help themselves at all. The 1st ended with neither team finding the back of the net, but the Oilers looked like the better team. Not the dominant team, but the better team. And the best player on the ice was Taylor Hall. In the 2nd the Oilers scored the only goal of the period. It was on the powerplay and the puck was deflected. But it did go short side on Andersen and it was clearly one that he wanted back. Overall in the 2nd the Ducks were out shot 13 to 6 and out scored 1 to 0. Not good numbers for an elite team against the worst team in the west. The Ducks were going to need a strong 3rd period if they wanted to come out on top in this one. But less than 3 minutes into it Hall made a great play and Jordan Eberle gave the Oilers a 2-0 lead. At that point in the game Perry and the Ducks top line took over. He scored less than a minute later and then tied the game midway through the 3rd period by tipping Robidas' point shot. Finally, with less than 2 minutes left in the game he set up Beauchemin for the gamewinning goal.
Like the Winnipeg game the Ducks came out on top in the end thanks to a strong 3rd period, which was needed after a slow start. And like the Winnipeg game it should not have been necessary for the Ducks to have to force a comeback late in the game. So after the Ducks 1st 2 games they had 2 come from behind wins, and it's great that this team can win after giving up the early lead, that is a must in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But to play disinterested and downright terrible in the playoffs will lead to an early exit, and that is how the Ducks played the beginning of both of these games. Finally, the Ducks played against the Nashville Predators in their final home game of this short hometsand.
After sitting for 3 games and being given a mental rest, Jonas Hiller was back in net for the Ducks. He has struggled since shutting out the St. Louis Blues, but he is capapble of playing at an elite level, just view his body of work at the past Winter Olympics. Similar to the previous 2 games the Ducks came out listless and the Predators took advantage. Early on Hiller was making some good saves, but his rebound control was just atrocious and he did not look comfortable in making routine saves. And the Ducks were just standing away. It seemed inevitable that the Predators would score soon and potentially often. Just over 5 minutes into the game a Predators forward went right around Beauchemin and got a good shot off. Hiller made the save but couldn't coral the rebound, the puck went around the net and Hiller could not hold the post and the Predators had their 1st goal of the game. Beauchemin was absolutely terrible on this play and Hiller needs to hold that post better. He would get beat in that same spot 2 more times in this game. A crazy bouncing play led to the Predators 2nd goal. Lovejoy and Sbisa got crossed up as the puck bounced around and Hiller had no chance on this goal. On the 3rd goal the Ducks were slow to get back to help Hiller, the puck went behind the net and the Predators brought it out and beat Hiller with a backhander. It was a bad goal to give up, Hiller was slow to cover the post, but he had no help on this goal from the rest of the team. Finally the Ducks got on the board. The 2nd line of Perreault, Maroon, and Palmieri was pretty much the lone bright spot for the Ducks in this game. They had the Ducks best shifts and final broke through for the Ducks 1st goal of the game. But just 2 minutes later the Predators scored again, in an almost exact carbon copy of their 3rd goal. It was the worst goal that Hiller had given up and he was pulled. In the end the Ducks fell 5-2 to the Predators. They didn't have an answer to the Predators in the 1st 2 periods and there was no miracle comeback in the 3rd.
A 3 game homestand against 3 non playoff teams should have been 3 easy wins, but it wasn't. It was 2 incredibly difficult wins and one pathetic loss. The Ducks have been coasting at the start of recent games and that is highly problematic with only 5 games left in the regular season. The team defense has been abysmal and the goaltending has not been great, especially from Hiller. Andersen has been the better goalie, but I have to think that Boudreau wants Hiller as his starter come playoff time, but will only feel comfortable doing so if Hiller can turn his game around. If not, the Ducks hopes will fall to the rookie netminder who has played very well for them this season, but it remains to be seen what he can do during the playoffs. The Ducks most consistent line through these 3 games was the 2nd line of Perreault, Palmieri, and Maroon. If the rest of the team can play like these 3 they will finish the season playing well.
On a brighter note, the Ducks recently signed a couple of their prospects to entry level deals. They signed Nick Sorensen, their 2nd round pick (45th overall) from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, to a 3 year deal. He is a 19 year old right winger who has scored 56 goals and over 100 points in 98 career games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. And today the Ducks signed Nic Kerdiles to a 3 year entry level contract. He is 20 years old and was selected in the 2nd round (36th) overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He is a left winger who plays US college hockey and is 5th in the nation in points per game, averaging 1.36 points per game. But the most exciting thing about him is that he is from Irvine, California. He is the second Ducks prospect, along with Emerson Etem, to be selected from Southern California. It's always exciting when the Ducks select and then sign a SoCal native for the team. The Ducks also assigned center William Karksson to the Norfolk Admirals. He has spent the last 2 years playing in the top clu b in Sweden and has now arrived in North America. Hopefully he will help the Admirals qualify for the AHL Playoffs this season. In the future, he will probably spend at least a full season in Norfolk before looking to make the jump to Anaheim in the 2015-2016 season.
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