The Anaheim Ducks played their only game in Winnipeg this season. And if these two teams do not meet in the playoffs, then this was Teemu Selanne's last game in the city that he began his career in.
This was easily the Ducks best game of the season. They played hard and competed for 60 minutes, and while there were still some issues, if they play like this, they are going to win a hell of a lot more games than they lose.
As with my previous post, I'm going to start with what the Ducks need to work on/didn't do well. It was much less than the previous two games, but the Ducks still have a lot of things to work on.
I'm going to quickly sound like a broken record, but the penalty still needs a lot of work. It was great that the Ducks only allowed one goal and now have a penalty kill rate about 50%, but the fact that this something to celebrate should tell you all that you need to know about the Ducks atrocious penalty killing through the 1st couple of games. That being said, when the team did kill the penalties off, they looked much stronger than in the previous two games.
The Ducks powerplay was 0 for 4 tonight, and didn't look all that dangerous. Their 1st powerplay was easily their best one, but the next two were not strong. For the final powerplay of the game the Ducks were more focused on not letting the Jets not get any life since the Ducks had a 1 goal lead late in the game, so I give them a pass for that powerplay not being strong. But like the Ducks, the Jets penalty kill has struggled through their 1st few games, and this would have been a good time for the Ducks to get their powerplay going, but it didn't happen.
I know that he had the game winning goal, but apart from that, Corey Perry had a very forgettable night. He just hasn't been very good through the 1st 3 games of the season. As with the playoffs last year, he's been constantly snake bit and just can't find the back of the net. And when Perry is not scoring, he needs to be using his body physically, something that he hasn't done this season either. But hopefully that goal will get him going and the goals coming. The Ducks are going to need him to be successful this year if they want to make the playoffs.
And the final negative for the Ducks wasn't something that they did, but something that happened to them. In the 3rd period, I noticed that Palmieri wasn't playing and wondered what happened to him. Later in the 3rd period the Ducks broadcast revealed that he was out with an upper body injury and would not return to the game. Hopefully he gets healthy soon and is ready to go for the home opener on Thursday.
And that's really what stood out to me of what went wrong for the Ducks tonight. Sure, there were stretches where the Jets kept the Ducks pinned in their own zone, but that happens in hockey. I'm not concerned when it happens, as long as the Ducks aren't pinned up for long stretches of the game as they were against Minnesota.
And now, on to what the Ducks did right. There was a lot of things for the Ducks to build on, so I won't go through everything, but I'll mention the things that stuck out to me the most.
1st of all, even though he didn't score any points, this night was all about Teemu Selanne, and he didn't disappoint. He was flying all over the ice, playing over 17 minutes with 4 shots on goal. Even though he finished a -1, he played great tonight. He played primarily on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry, though he did see some time on the 2nd line as well in the 3rd period. Even though he had no points, if he keeps playing like this for the rest of the season, he is going to score a decent number of goals. And when you take into account that he is 43 years old, he was great.
From the 43 year old, I move to the 19 year old. Hampus Lindholm played in his 1st NHL game tonight, and he didn't look out of place. He had one glaring turnover on the powerplay, but other than that, he played a very solid game. He finished the night with a +1 rating, a shot on goal, and two blocked shots.
He was paired with Beauchemin and saw time on the 2nd powerplay unit with Kyle Palmieri at the other point. He even played a little bit while the Ducks were shorthanded and looked fine. He played over 18 minutes in his NHL debut and didn't look out of place. And for a defenseman in his 1st hockey game, I think that's a great compliment. He was in for Fistric (just as I was hoping) and played better than the veteran defender.
Speaking of young defenseman, Cam Fowler played what was easily his best game of the season. He was skating well and hustling up and down the ice. He played over 23 minutes, the most of anyone on the team. In the 1st 2 games of the season, he didn't look like a top 2 defenseman, hell, there were times when he didn't like a top 4 defenseman. But tonight, he looked and played like a top pairing defenseman. He needs to keep playing like this for the rest of the season.
I'm actually going to mention the entire Ducks defense. This was their best game of the season, limiting the Jets to just 17 shots, 6 in the 1st and 2nd periods, and just 5 in the final period.
I haven't mentioned Bryan Allen yet, and that's because he hasn't done much to mention. He doesn't play very flashy, his game is to be steady and reliable. He shouldn't be noticed. And through the Ducks 1st 3 games, he has been the best defender, no questions asked. I think he's been better this season than he was last season. If he can keep playing like this, and keep being a solid partner for Vatanen, the Ducks are going to have a great 3rd pairing on defense.
This was easily Beauchemin's best game of the season. While he still got beat by a speedy Blake Wheeler on the penalty kill at one point, he seemed to be much better adjusted to playing on his weak knee.
Sami Vatanen had another strong game. He had several good scoring chances and kept the puck in the zone several times on the powerplay. He did get leveled by a few big hits, but he got up each time and seemed fine.
The Ducks 3rd line continued its strong play, and tied the game up with just seconds left in the 2nd period. They have been the Ducks best line this season, no questions asked. If the top 2 lines played like these 3 did, the Ducks would have won all 3 games, in regulation.
The Ducks 2nd line of Perreault, Silfverberg, and Penner turned in another strong performance. Penner was even better than yesterday, and was rewarded with over 12 minutes of ice time and some time on the powerplay. And he picked up his 2nd assist of the season. Perreault scored his 2nd goal in as many games by crashing the net and cashing in on a rebound. And Silfverberg just looked good tonight, taking good shots and being in the right place at the right time. He was also strong in the Ducks defensive zone. While he doesn't have the offensive talent that Bobby Ryan does, I do think that his defensive instincts are better. He finished the night with an assist, a +1 rating, and 4 shots on goal.
The Ducks 4th line of Bonino, Palmieri, and Maroon looked great. It's only a matter of time before they start scoring goals. They are getting their chances and can create a great cycle in the offensive zone.
The final minute of regulation was just fantastic. The Ducks did a great job of keeping the pressure up and didn't let the Jets pull the goalie until there were about 40 seconds left in the game. And then, with 17 seconds left, the Ducks forced the Jets to ice it. On the following faceoff, the Ducks never let the Jets get out of their zone, and the game ended.
The Ducks played their best game of the season tonight. They were the dominant team in terms of puck possession and shots on goal. There were simply the better team tonight. While there were still flaws, and some of the Ducks need to play better, but they got the result that they deserved. The Ducks started the season with a 3 game road trip and went 2-1, and I'm satisfied with that record. If the Ducks can win two out of every 3 games this season, they will almost assuredly make the playoffs. Tonight, we saw glimpses of how good this team can be. They still have a lot of work to be an elite team and make the playoffs, but if they keep playing like this, then the Ducks have an excellent chance of doing so. But, there are 79 games left. There will be bad games, but as long as they are few and far between, I'm very confident in the Ducks this season.