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Ducks Can't Connect On Chances, Fall 5-3 to Minnesota

Well that sucked. After a strong first period that saw them score two quick goals, the Ducks gave up a late short-handed goal that seemed to suck the life out of them. In the second period, the Ducks looked tired and slow, and Minnesota swarmed through the neutral zone to pick up every loose puck. The Wild struck twice in the span of 32 seconds in the second, giving them a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

Anaheim came out firing in the third, displaying the effort and style of play we saw in the first two periods against Philadelphia. While the Ducks threw shot after shot at Josh Harding, they just couldn't finish the many, many chances they generated. Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu each hit posts on relatively wide-open nets and Teemu Selanne was unable to corral a beautiful cross-crease feed to put one behind an out-of-position Harding. While Cam Fowler scored off a Minnesota skate in the third to tie the game at 3-3, the Wild got their own flukey goal when Nick Johnson directed a Cal Clutterbuck feed past Jonas Hiller. The Ducks got their share of opportunities during a late power play (including the aforementioned chance from Selanne), but it was Minnesota that was able to capitalize on the empty net, sealing the game 5-3.

The Good
  • Although they both missed open looks late in the game, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne each had tremendous games. They played much of the first half of the game with Matt Beleskey and finished the game with Bobby Ryan on their wing, the second line was the Ducks' best all night. I think Teemu and Saku have best adapted to Bruce Boudreau's system, utilizing their speed and passing ability as they enter the zone to create havoc. Both Beleskey and Ryan played well on the wings, each adding the ability to dig pucks out and set-up the Finns.
  • The power play continues to look strong under Boudreau. For the second straight game, the Ducks netted a goal with the man advantage, and my God it was a beauty. Teemu Selanne feathered a pass to Corey Perry, who in one move directed it over to a wide-open Ryan Getzlaf for the goal.
  • Bruce rolled all four of his lines fairly effectively, with JF Jacques getting the least amount of ice time at 5:25. One of the things that I've really noticed with Boudreau is that we're starting to see more consistent contributions from all members of the team. I'm really loving the more balanced play throughout the lineup and I think this will really pay off in the near term.
  • BB has put his faith in Francois Beauchemin to be the Ducks' #1 defenseman and Frenchy is rewarding that trust. In two games under Boudreau, Beauch has played over 30 minutes each night. In each of those games, Beauch has easily been Anaheim's best defenseman, making heady plays while punishing over-zealous forwards. For the first time since we acquired him last year (in the now infamous trade for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner), I feel that Beuach is reaching the level of play that he was known for in his first stint with the Ducks.

The Bad

  • Jonas Hiller had a rough game. He made a couple of brilliant saves, but the third goal was entirely on him. Not only should he have blocked Pierre-Marc Bouchard's back-hander, but the tally really seemed to deflate the team. Jonas was also a rebound machine tonight, although there is some debate about whether or not that is by design (commenter JuMowbray suggested that this may be a strategy to get the puck moving back up the ice).
  • Tony Lydman had a pretty bad night himself. He finished an ugly -2 and was on the ice for all three of Minnesota's even-strength goals. While Toni was a revelation last year, he has frequently been caught out of position this season, creating breakaway opportunities for the opposition. Hopefully Lydman turns things around when Lubomir Visnovsky comes back, but his play has definitely been disappointing this season.
  • The top line has really struggled the past two games. Yes, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have found success on the PP, but the top line (whether with Bobby Ryan or Matt Beleskey) just hasn't gotten it done at even strength. The top line still seems to want to cycle, and I wonder how long Boudreau will let them continue that style of play. When they were on the ice for an even strength goal tonight (Fowler's goal in the third period), it came off a rush. I know there's a value to the cycle, but Boudreau seems to want the team to shoot early and often. We'll see how things develop, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Boudreau try to pair the twins with a faster winger (like he did with Andrew Cogliano in the third) to encourage more opportunities upon entering the zone.

The Ugly

  • For the second straight game, the Ducks seemed to revert to a passive style of play for an extended period of time, and it burned them. While last game was somewhat understandable due to the constant penalties, the Ducks just seemed tired in the second period. Not only were they outshot 13-4 in the period, but it was also the period in which Minnesota took the lead. I'm not sure what caused the Ducks to play so tentatively in the second, but I expect this will be a source of focus for Bruce Boudreau in the next few days.
  • It's one thing to generate scoring chances, but it's another thing to finish them off. I'm not sure why the Ducks have been so snakebit this year, but it's certainly cost them a number of games this season. Yes, part of this can be attributed to luck, but at some point, you've got to find a way to persevere. Missing wide-open looks just cannot happen at this level, much less three times in a closely contested third period.