Last night the Ducks took on the Edmonton Oilers, a team that has been mired in misery for years now and have shown little improvement despite their several 1st overall draft picks. It should have been an easy game for the high flying Ducks, and the score of 5-2 would seem to indicate that, but the game, especially was the 1st period, was much more difficult that most would have expected.
Before I get to the good and bad about last nights game, I just wanted to make 2 positive comments about the Oilers. 1st of all, Bryzgalov had a great game last night! Ever since he was a Duck he has always been one of my favorite goalies and I wish him the best in the future. It doesn't look like he will be able to turn Edmonton around this season, but he was damn good last night, making a number of great saves, especially on the Ducks top line of Getzlaf-Perry-Silfverberg. 2nd, I loved when the Oilers pulled Bryz during their 5 on 3 powerplay late in the 3rd. They were down by 3 goals and it was a gutsy move. Even though the Oilers failed to score with the 6 on 3 advantage, I thought that it was a great move. Sure it was desperate, but sometimes teams have to do desperate things to win in the NHL. And even though it didn't work, I thought it was a great call to make. Plus, I found it hilarious when Bryz came back on the ice during play. I don't think I've ever seen that and it made me laugh.
And now, to the bad of last night's Ducks. And despite the 5-2 score, there were actually a lot of things that went wrong for the Ducks. But I'm just going to focus on the the biggest ones, and I have to start with that woeful powerplay. While it did have some nice chances and Bryz made some great saves, the fact that the Ducks went 0 for 8 is cause for alarm. Sure, the Ducks had 15 shots with the man advantage (almost as many as the Oilers had for the entire game), but the fact that none went in is bad. If the Ducks were playing Chicago or LA or SJ or Pittsburgh or any other elite team, they probably lose last night's game with their powerplay going 0 for 8. The powerplay has been worrisome all season, and while it seemed to improve in November, it went right back to being god awful in December and things apparently haven't changed in the new year.
Next, Ryan Getzlaf had a terrible night. And not just because he didn't score any points in the game or had a -1 rating. He was miserable in the faceoff circle (winning only 40% of the draws he took) and had 2 terrible turnovers that led to the Oilers 2nd goal. He turned the puck over at the blueline while exiting the Ducks zone, and then turned it over again near the side of the net just after the Ducks had gotten control of the puck. And moments later the Oilers had a 2-1 lead. The captain had an off night. It happens. He'll turn his game around and get back to the dominating force that he's been all season, but for last night, he had an off night.
And finally, the Ducks 1st period. The Ducks allowed a goal just 35 seconds into the game. The Ducks came out flat and did not look good. Thankfully the Ducks tied the game up 11 seconds later, but things didn't improve much after that. Because of Getzlaf's turnovers, the Oilers went back on top just over half way into the period. The Ducks were sloppy throughout, and if not for the 3rd line and the play of Ben Lovejoy, they would have been down by 2 goals after the 1st period.
And now, to what the Ducks did right. And I have to begin with Ben Lovejoy! He had the 1st 2 goal game of his career with 2 blasts from the point. The 1st one came off a drop pass from Saku Koivu and the 2nd off an identical drop pass from Cam Fowler. Not only that, the 2 goals were scored just 2:43 apart, the fastest 2 goals by a Ducks defenseman in franchise history. He played great defensively and finished the night with 4 hits and a +3 rating. He's played great all season and tonight he was rewarded with 2 goals. It was a great night for a player who has become a great guy on this team.
The Ducks 3rd line has been their most consistent line all season. But last night, Boudreau decided to give Daniel Winnik the night off and put Kyle Palmieri on that line, and it instantly paid off. 11 seconds after the Oilers took a 1-0 lead Palmieri intercepted a pass from the Oilers and scored to tie the game. Koivu set up set up Lovejoy's tying goal late in the 1st period and Cogliano blocked a shot in the 3rd period, skated down on a breakaway and scored to give the Ducks their 5th goal of the game. They did a great job of containing the Oilers top forwards and even scoring several times against them (the Oilers top line had a combined -10 rating). They were far and away the Ducks best line against the Oilers.
Tim Jackman had played in 11 games for the Ducks before last night as a 4th line energy grinder. And he has filled that roll admirably. But last night was his best game as a Duck. He was a physical presence for the Ducks and actually had several scoring chances last night. And that was capped off by him scoring his 1st goal as a Duck. He had come close several times earlier in the game, and then with less than a minute left in the 2nd period, Nick Bonino fed Jackman in the slot and he beat Bryz with a backhand shot. That last minute goal really helped put this game away for the Ducks. As with Lovejoy, it was a great reward for a player who gives it his all every time he's on the ice.
And finally, even though the Ducks powerplay was awful, their penalty kill was great. Even when the Oilers had 6 skaters on the ice, the Ducks severely limited their chances. In fact, the Oilers only took one shot on Hiller while they had a 3 man advantage, and that was the only shot they had while on the powerplay.
It wasn't sloppy, it wasn't pretty, but the Ducks walked away with the win and improved their home record to 16-0-2 this season. It wasn't the Ducks best game, and their top line was silent, but their depth scoring came through. Their 3rd line was absolutely amazing (even with the lineup change to it) and both Lovejoy and Jackman had great games too. Against Vancouver tomorrow this team is going to need to be much better. But for now, the Ducks can celebrate the win, even though it was far from their best game played.