Takeaways: Luca Sbisa Looks Good?

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

He's only been good for two games, but he's been really good in those two games. Will he go back to his normal Sbisaness, or is this a sign of things to come?

1. The only possible upside of the Calgary game is that it may have served as a wake-up call, similar to the season-opening rout that came at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. For the first time since 2012, the Ducks need every point they can get right now. In the coming weeks you're going to hear a lot about how it doesn't matter where you finish as long as you make the playoffs, and how the Los Angeles Kings' eightthseed Stanley Cup run is indisputable proof of this. That logic really only applies to the hypothetical best team in the league, because that team should be the favorite regardless of which team they draw. For everybody else, matchups mean everything. Right now, the San Jose Sharks are doing their best to grab the top spot in the Pacific, and if the Ducks don't keep pace, they're going to end up playing the Kings in the first round. Matchups mean everything. Had the Ducks drawn Columbus or Minnesota last year — both possibilities going into the final weekend of the 2013 season — they may well have seen the second round.

2. Luca Sbisa just played the best two games of his season, maybe of his career. Going off nothing more than my eyeballs, it seems he's simplified his game. Instead of trying to skate the puck out of trouble and eventually turning it over, he made clean outlet passes. Instead of following his man all around the defensive zone, he held his position. And instead of firing toward the net and getting his shots blocked, he sent it behind the net or moved laterally to change his angle or passed it to his D partner. Sbisa has always had the physical skills necessary to become a reliable NHL defenseman; his problem has been his on-the-fly decision making, also known as "Hockey IQ." If he is able to continue playing like he did against the Avs and the Kings, he might end up playing an important role in the playoffs. Keep the development curve of Cam Fowler in mind. Defensemen usually take longer to reach their potential than forwards do. If Sbisa can follow that trajectory, we might all end up eating our words from the last few years.

3. Since the Dustin Penner trade, we've seen Kyle Palmieri, Patrick Maroon, Teemu Selanne, and Jakob Silfverberg audition for the vacancy up top. Matt Beleskey has also played there in the past. I liked Silfverberg best, but not overwhelmingly so. As we've seen, Palmieri tends to either look like a superstar sniper or a wasted roster spot, so until he can find some consistency, I'd be reluctant to give him the job. But there is more to this than just finding the best player to play with the twins. It's equally important, perhaps even more important, that the other three lines score some goals.

4. I've got a crazy idea for giving the secondary scoring a boost. Bruce Boudreau tried playing Sbisa as a forward, but if Sbisa continues his recent quality of play, he will be more valuable on the blue line. So how about playing Sami Vatanen up front, once he returns from injury? He could play with either Nick Bonino or Mathieu Perreault and whichever winger Boudreau likes. I'm not sure I like this more than simply slotting him back into the defensive corps, but if Fowler, Ben Lovejoy, Francois Beauchemin, Hampus Lindholm, Stephane Robidas, and Sbisa all look good, it just might be worth a shot.

5. Power plays are now depressing wastes of two minutes of everybody's lives. Enough so that I decided to look back at power play percentages for recent playoff years. Anyone remember who had the best power play in the 2013 playoffs? The Ducks, that's who. 28.0% conversion rate. Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks? Thirteenth of sixteen teams at 11.4%. In 2012, the Kings were 12th at 12.8%. And in 2011, the Ducks were first at 36.4% (another first round bust, by the way) and the champion Boston Bruins were 14th at 11.4%. But from 2000 to 2010, every Cup champion had a power play clicking above 15%, and most were better than 20%. In fewer words, several recent Cup winner had awful power plays, but if you expand the sample size, you'll find that they are anomalies.

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