After starting out their 8 game road trip 0-2, the Ducks have defeated both Ottawa and Columbus to get a .500 record half way through this trip. The game against Columbus has been the 1st game of this road trip that I have been able to watch in its entirety because all of the games on this road trip so far have started either at 4 or 4:30. While it wasn't the Ducks best game, and they saw another player lost to injury, the Ducks walked away from Columbus with a win and with a 9-3 record overall.
A couple of quick lineup notes on tonight's game. In a bit of a surprising move, the Ducks started Frederik Andersen tonight, playing him in consecutive games for the 1st time in his career. There are some Ducks fans who think that this team has turned on Hiller, and others who are simply confused that Andersen played tonight. I don't think it's that big of a deal. It's my belief that the Ducks are testing Andersen, trying to figure out if he is ready to be an NHL backup right now, instead of next season. And to do so, he's going to need to play in some games. If the Ducks trade one of Fasth or Hiller, and then lose the other to injury, they want to be sure that Andersen will be able to hold the fort until the starter gets healthy again. He played well, not great, but good enough to begin his career with a 3-0 record. I expect to see Hiller back in net on Tuesday. After being scratched against Ottawa, Teemu was back in tonight, playing for the injured Silfverberg, and Holland was recalled from Norfolk to replace Perreault. Holland centered the 4th line with Palmieri and Smith-Pelly and Bonino centered the 2nd line between Teemu and Etem.
As always, I'll start with the negatives from tonight's game. And the 1st thing has to be injuries. Against Ottawa, the Ducks lost Perreault (day to day) and Silfverberg (4 to 6 weeks), and tonight they lost Saku Koivu. He took a nasty looking elbow to his head late in the 2nd period and did not return. Brandon Dubinsky absolutely leveled Koivu. I haven't watched a lot of Dubinsky, but he's never struck me as a dirty player, so I chalk this hit up to bad luck for Koivu and a bad play by Dubinsky. This play should be reviewed by Shanahan, and I do think that Dubinsky should be suspended, but to me, this hit was no where near as bad as Garbutt's. And since he got 5 games, I'd be satisfied with a game or 2 for this hit. Hopefully Koivu can get well soon, but as of right now, I have yet to see any update on his condition.
One of the hallmarks for the Ducks this season has been a strong start to each game. In all 5 home games they put pressure on the opposing team and scored often. At the start of tonight's game they looked listless on the ice. About 9 minutes into the game the Ducks had only 1 shot on goal. And it wasn't until about half way through the period when the Ducks top line finally put some pressure on the Blue Jackets. Before that, the Ducks seemed content to get the puck out of their zone, dump it into the Jackets zone, and then sit back and wait for them to counterattack.
The Jackets 1st goal was just ugly. All 5 Ducks were in their own zone, and they let the Jackets penetrate (I think it was 2 or 3 of them, the rest were going for a change), and just had terrible coverage. The goal was scored off of a 1 timer in the slot, and both Perry and Maroon were screening Andersen. He saw the puck, but only at the last moment as it was beating him.
And just moments after the Jackets took the lead, Vatanen turned the puck over and the Jackets almost went up by a pair. Vatanen is a great passer, but he is still young and has made a few bad mistakes this season, this was one of his worst. Thankfully, nothing came of it, so hopefully it's a good lesson on what not to do in the future.
Even though it finally scored (more on that in the positive section), there were times tonight when the Ducks powerplay looked absolutely terrible. And, to make it worse, they gave up a shorthanded goal. Fowler bobbled the puck at the blue line, leading to a 2 on 1 break and the Jackets put the puck home, tying the game at 2 goals apiece. On the Ducks 1st powerplay, they passed the puck way too much, leading to some easy clears. At the start of the 3rd period when the Ducks were on a 5 minute powerplay, they couldn't even enter the zone, and the Jackets cleared the zone multiple times before the Ducks finally entered the zone and managed to get set up. Their were times tonight when the Ducks look good on the powerplay, but there were times when it seemed like the Jackets had more players on the ice.
Following the Ducks taking a 2-1 lead (off of a terrible goal by Bobrovsky (seriously, Holland was on the goal line and just shot the puck at him and it somehow went through him)), the Jackets came back with a vengeance. The entire next shift was spent in the Ducks zone, as was the next one. The Ducks finally cleared the puck, got it into the Jackets zone, only to turn the puck over and spend the next shift in their own zone again. The Jackets had a great response to the Ducks scoring, and the Ducks couldn't match their level of play. It was the longest stretch that the Ducks were dominated in this game, hell probably the longest stretch that either team dominated tonight. Thankfully, the Ducks weren't scored on, but the Jackets came close several times.
The Ducks have been good in the faceoff circle for most of this season, in large part thanks to Perreault. His replacement Holland had a rough night, winning only 2 of 9 draws. If he wants to stick around in Anaheim, he's going to need to improve those numbers.
And now, to the good. And 1st of all, the Ducks scored a powerplay goal! Fowler was at the point and passed to Lindholm. He sent a cross crease pass to Bonino who set up Teemu in the slot, Teemu's one timer was saved, but Etem put the rebound in. It was a simple play, and all 5 players on the ice had a hand in it. Etem went to the front of the net and was rewarded. And he wasn't the only one. Maroon, Perry, and others all camped out in front of Bobrovsky tonight, and it almost led to more goals. While the powerplay didn't look good at times, there were times went the Ducks powerplay actually looked like it should be scoring.
Even though it was a bad goal given up by Bobrovsky, credit to Holland for scoring a goal tonight. He's been playing in Norfolk all season, but with the injury to Perreault, he finally got his chance and made the most of it tonight. Smith-Pelly chipped the puck to Palmieri who fed Holland along the goal line. He just shot the puck towards the net, and it went in. It wasn't a pretty goal, but it went in, and that's all that matters.
After being scratched a couple of games ago, Palmieri had a strong performance tonight. He hit the post on one of the Ducks powerplays and assisted on Hollands goal and generally just looked better tonight. He's a goal scorer, and more games like this will lead to him finding the back of the net.
Hampus Lindholm continues to impress. I'm no fan of the +/- stat, but he is currently leading the team with a +11 rating. Not only is he leading this team, he is currently tied for the league lead. He's 19 years old, has played in 10 NHL games, and he is tied for the league lead in +/-. He's been great so far, and while I doubt those numbers will continue throughout the season, his play means good things for the future of Anaheim's defensive core.
The Ducks only took 1 penalty tonight, much better discipline from this team. And while it did happen in the last minute and a half of the game, at that point, the refs were looking to call just about whatever they could on Anaheim (the Ducks had 4 powerplays tonight). And Beauchemin did commit a penalty. Gaborik made a great play to draw the call by crashing the net with good speed. But before that, the Ducks played a relatively clean game tonight. I'm sure that there were missed calls (let's be honest, no team ever plays a completely clean game), the Ducks did a good job of staying out of the box tonight.
Andersen played well tonight. If he keeps playing like this he is going to prove that he belongs to be in Anaheim as the backup, but he's going to need more games before he can prove it. And depending on how long Fasth is out, he may very well get that chance. He didn't give up any bad goals, and the only one that I wish he could have found a way to stop was the 1st goal against.
The Ducks top line played well tonight. They scored a goal 19 seconds into the 2nd period and Perry scored the gamewinning goal late in the 3rd. Both Getz and Perry are leading this team offensively, and with Perreault and Silfverberg out (the Ducks 3rd and 4th leading scorers going into tonight's game), the Ducks are going to need even more from their top 2 players.
The final minute of this game was very frantic. The Jackets were on the powerplay and the Ducks could not clear the zone. But they kept breaking up Columbus shots and passes, and I'm not sure if Andersen even made a save in the final minute. Finally, with about 7 seconds left, Getzlaf cleared the zone, giving the Ducks the win.
The Ducks next game is Tuesday in Philadelphia. The Flyers are near the bottom of the league, but have won their last couple games. They are a dangerous team and the Ducks cannot look past them. If they do, they will lose this game. Some good news for the Ducks, Penner has rejoined the team, and though he wasn't ready to go tonight, he should be back in the lineup in the near future. Possibly as early as Tuesday.