The Ducks finally broke through last night and had a solid all-around performance. While Perry, Ryan, and Getzlaf had a great game (combined 8 points and +3), the most important offense of the night came from the Ducks 4th line. George Parros tied the game early in the 2nd, and Mike Brown had a shorthanded tally to give the Ducks the lead. Ryan Carter assisted on both goals. The 3rd line was kept off the score sheet, but looked very dangerous and more than capable of hemming up a team in their own zone.
Depth is often the most important factor in determining a team's success. Arthur, you pointed out during the game last night that the Bottom 6 are playing so well that it's allowed Carlyle to reset the Top 6 to his preferred combinations (Ryan on the 1st line; Lupul on the 2nd). Can the play of the Bottom 6 help the Ducks right the ship?
Yes, it can. When the team struggled out of the gate last season, one of the first things Carlyle did was ask the Shutdown Line to score. He knew that production from the checking line would take the pressure off a struggling Top 6 and allow him to roll four lines in any game situation. That's still true this season.
Now, I don't think the Bottom 6 can produce regularly, but they really built their confidence in last night's game against a hobbled Canucks team on the tail end of back-to-backs. And that's what it's about. SOMEONE on this team had to start playing with confidence, had to start shining in his role while still showing off his talent. And I think the key to that has been Ryan Carter. Surely, Parros has put in his work and worked on his puckhandling game, because people don't fight him as often as they used to. And Mike Brown, well he's just continued to be Mike Brown and make his case for the 3rd line. But Carter, he's always been touted as that Swiss Army Knife player. And frankly, we'd seen enough of the reamer (if you will), the grit and the tough man on the draw, the tools that got him out of Portland. Now, playing with a consistent trio to open the season, he had a chance to show off the sharper instruments in his toolkit. It's that confident play that will make this team truly dangerous.
I think the fact that the success came against a battered Vancouver team is cause to believe that the Bottom 6 aren't enough to turn everything around.
So you don't factor in Carter's game winner against Minnesota, the fact that the last two Ducks wins both came off of big points from the 4th line?
Carter's game winner was more of an incidental contribution. Parros' goal last night came knowing the team was trailing on an ugly home losing streak. I don't know if the 4th line can reproduce that clutch scoring against a healthy team.
Don't get me wrong. They had a monster game. They are settling into their roles, and they look infinitely more confident. I saw that confidence take root last night and spread throughout the team. The problem is, for the past 5 years or so, the Ducks have been a team that wins from the net out, like other championship teams. I see too many mistakes happening back on the blueline to be convinced that everything is going to get better.
Wisniewski has to be the luckiest guy on the planet. His ability to make defensive mistakes that don't end up in the back of the net is baffling. He thinks he's Scott Niedermayer, but he doesn't have the skating to defend against the turnovers or skate the puck out of traffic. Whitney still hasn't toughened up his play in front of the net in order to defend against the likes of the Holmstroms, the Thorntons and other giant bodies of the Western Conference. Boynton, Eminger and Mikkelson are buckling under efficient forechecking, and in the example of last night, inefficient forechecking. I'm worried about the play of the blueline. I don't think that more efficient play up front can protect us from defenders who turn the puck over and can't move the puck up to the forwards in order to get the offense going.