The Anaheim Ducks faced the Buffalo Sabres tonight and came away with a 6-3 win. The thing is, for whatever reason, Buffalo has been a mess all season. They have 2 wins and 5 points, they have yet to win at home, and they have only scored the 1st goal in a game only once. To me, that is the perfect recipe for a desperate team that could come out and beat the Ducks if they weren't careful. Thankfully, that didn't happen and the Ducks were able to win the game over the final 40 minutes of the game.
As with pretty much every other post that I've made this year, I have to start with the Ducks special teams. And let me tell you, both the powerplay and penalty kill are anything but special this year. The Ducks had 3 powerplay chances tonight, and as has happened in almost every other game this year, they didn't score. They had a 5 on 3 for about 30 seconds, and didn't look dangerous at all. The Ducks powerplay is a disaster on ice, and their penalty kill isn't much better. Buffalo's powerplay is among the worst in the league (though it's still better than Anaheim's), and it managed to score a goal on only 2 chances tonight.
Another game, another injury. Toward the end of the 2nd period, I noticed that Beauchemin was on the ice with Allen, in the spot that Sami Vatanen would usually be in. I figured that since it was the final minute of the period the Ducks wanted a little less risk on their blue line and I thought it was a smart move. Vatanen has been great this season, but when protecting a lead at the end of a period, I pick both Beauchemin and Allen over him. But, I was wrong. As the 3rd period started, the Ducks broadcasters noticed that Vatanen was not on the bench and he did not return to the game. All that I have heard so far is that he is out with an upper body injury, no idea how long he'll be out for. Hopefully he'll be back soon.
The Ducks 1st period was not good. The Ducks looked tired on the ice, and I don't blame them. This was the 7th game of an 8 game road trip, this is a tired team and they looked it. They put little pressure on Buffalo, and only had a few good shifts. Thankfully, Buffalo wasn't much better in the 1st and both teams finished with 7 shots on goal after 20 minutes.
Once the Ducks got out to a 4 goal lead, they let Buffalo back into the game. I have no problem with the Sabres 2nd goal of the night, it was a bit of a fluky one, a point shot that just finds its way through, but that 3rd goal should never have happened. The Ducks cannot let teams stick around and fight their way back into a game. Once they get a lead, the Ducks need to keep skating and not give them any life. They have done a pretty good job of this through most of the season, but this stretch in the 3rd period was a little worrying.
And now, to the positives. To begin with, I have to talk about Dustin Penner. He was one of the few players noticeable in the 1st period and had a strong 2nd period. He started out on the 2nd line, but after his strong play, Boudreau moved him up to the top line with Getzlaf and Perry, and it very quickly paid instant dividends. Shortly after Buffalo scored, Getzlaf and Penner broke into the offensive zone, and on a great give and go play, Penner fed Getzlaf for a beautiful goal to tie the game, and the Ducks never really looked back. Even though he only had 1 assist tonight, I thought that Dustin Penner was the most consistent forward on the ice for the Ducks tonight, he played hard all night. At one point during the 3rd period he took a big hit and missed his next shift, but he returned to the ice shortly after that, but there was a moment where I thought the Ducks had lost another player to injury. Thankfully, he appears to be fine and was just a little shaken up from the hit.
Emerson Etem had his 1st career 2 goal game. The Ducks were trying to get him a 3rd goal constantly, Perry kept giving him the puck in the final minute, but it wasn't to be. And, even better than the 2 goals was when he scored them. Vatanen scored, and 34 seconds later Etem lit the lamp. Perry scored and 39 seconds later Etem scored again. His goals really helped beat Buffalo down and put them out of the game because of how quickly they happened after other Ducks goals.
A Ducks defenseman finally scored tonight! Cogliano entered the offensive zone at full speed, he stopped, turned, and fed a perfect pass to Vatanen, and he beat Enroth with a perfect shot, and the Ducks led from then on. It was a great pass and a great shot and Vatanen deserved that goal, he's got just a cannon of a shot, and it was only a matter of time before he scored.
When Buffalo cut their deficit down to 2, the Ducks top line went to work. Getzlaf pitched a perfect pass down to Perry who walked in alone on Enroth and beat him with a perfect shot for his 2nd goal of the night. Getzlaf and Perry had a great night. Perry had 2 goals, both of them were just amazing shots, and Getzlaf finished with a goal and 2 assists. His goal got the Ducks on the board and back in the game, and his 2nd assist sprung Perry for the Ducks 6th goal and ended Buffalo's hope of a comeback.
Perreault had another strong game. He assited on both of Etem's goals and was 70% in the faceoff circle. He has been a revelation for this team. Whoever the Ducks have paired him with he has played well with. On his wing he has had Silfverberg, Selanne, Etem, Penner, Smith-Pelly, and more, and he has had success with almost every single one of them. Tonight, he and Smith-Pelly were paired together, and the 3rd player was Penner at the start, and then Etem when the large human went to the top line. He has quickly become an incredibly valuable asset to this team and has really helped fill a huge hole that the Ducks had at center.
Lindholm had another strong game. He picked up his 3rd career assist and skated the puck really well tonight. He is developing into a really nice player for the Ducks. As the Ducks get healthy (more like if they get healthy), it is possible that he will be sent down, and that's shame. He has played well enough to stay, but because he doesn't have to pass through waivers, he could be back in Norfolk. But, he has been good enough that the Ducks will do whatever they can to keep him in Anaheim.
Luca Sbisa played 2 games this weekend, just not for Anaheim. He has been on a conditioning stint with the Norfolk Admirals and had an assist in both games and a +1 rating in the 2 games. It looks like he is ready to return to full time duty with the Ducks, and if Vatanen is out, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sbisa in his spot on Monday's game in New York.
After a haggard looking 1st period, Buffalo struck 1st in the 2nd. And from then on, the game was pretty much all Anaheim. The Ducks quickly came out with several strong shifts and had a 3-1 lead after 2. And they kept the pressure up in the 3rd. Other than a brief stretch where the Sabres cut the lead down to 2, the Ducks played a great game over the final 40 minutes of the night. Once Buffalo scored, Anaheim woke up and took the game over.
With the win tonight, the Ducks are guaranteed to have a winning record on this monster road trip. If they win on Monday, they can make this a very successful road trip for them. Tonight, the Ducks beat up on what is possibly the worst team in the league. It was a game that could have been very for the team to look past, and while I think they did a little bit, I think it was mainly that the players were tired from all the travel. Thankfully, they will be able to return to Anaheim in the near future. Next up, the final game of this insane road trip against the Rangers, a team that will be looking for revenge after the Ducks embarrassed them 6-0 in the Ducks home opener.