Well, ladies and gentlemen, tonight was something unique. You take a 20-year old rookie goaltender and give him his first playoff start, add 30-40 minutes of very poor play, and you have a recipe for a win that probably shouldn't have been. Yet here we are, looking at a series tied at two games a piece. Again, I don't want to focus on the negatives too much after a ridiculously important win (a shutout win, no less), but there's one big aspect that really needs to be touched on.
-1000: Second Period (last ranking: NR) - I could've gotten a shutout in the second period if I was in goal for the Kings. You could've gotten a shutout in the second period if you were in goal for the Kings. I'm extremely confident in saying this, because the Ducks didn't get a single shot on Martin Jones in this period.
Let me reiterate this: THE SECOND-BEST OFFENSE IN THE LEAGUE HAD ZERO SHOTS IN THE SECOND. WHAT?!?!?!
By the grace of whatever higher power you may believe in, LA didn't score in that period either, but this isn't the place to be focusing on the high points. We'll get to that down the line.
-1: Hampus Lindholm (last ranking: NR) - Lindholm played one of his weaker games tonight in my opinion. There were a handful of occasions where I saw him a little flatfooted, leading to him getting out-skated while he'd lunge for pucks, and he wasn't playing the puck as well as the team needed him to. This isn't exactly commonplace with the young Swede though, so it shouldn't be an ongoing concern moving forward.
Even: Daniel Winnik (last ranking: NR) - This ranking isn't indicative of the fact that I think his play tonight was mediocre, but rather, that a few guys looked better in my eyes. In his first game back since April 27th, Winnik was contributing from the get-go. In the early going, he was the recipient of a surprising scoring chance on the penalty kill when Quick gave up an enormous rebound on a distant Koivu shot, but he fanned on the opportunity. Winnik returned the favor on the next King power play as he cut off Doughty in the neutral zone and tossed it ahead to #11 whose fancy stick handling prowess couldn't produce a shorthanded shot on goal. For the most part, though, he was muscling black jerseys off the puck left and right, allowing him to kick start the Anaheim offense.
+1: Cam Fowler (last ranking: NR) - Patrolling the middle of the defensive zone for most of 23:06 (largest chunk of ice time out of any Ducks player), Fowler was absolutely crucial in holding down the fort during the Kings' onslaught. This game was a good exhibit as to why he's one of the team's most dependable defensemen, and at only 22 years old, that's an incredible source of reassurance when it comes to the state of the Anaheim blue line.
+2: Corey Perry (last ranking: +1) - I would probably despise Perry if he wasn't a Duck. He's one of the biggest pests in the league, but are the mind games his specialty? Oh no, the man knows how to put points on the board as well. A unique player who's very well-versed in both, and although he wasn't playing the role of the water bottle trickster tonight (see: Thornton, Shawn), he still contributed in the latter manner. Excellent assist to Devante Smith-Pelly to open the scoring after out-muscling Drew Doughty for a rebound behind Quick's right post.
+3: Sami Vatanen (last ranking: +3) - Vatanen was one of the better puck movers for Anaheim, getting the puck out of the defensive zone when they needed it most. And that was a lot. He and DSP are going to crack the big boys' roster next year. With the way that they've been playing, they've just got to.
+4: Devante Smith-Pelly (last ranking: NR) - Playing on the top line with Getzlaf and Perry has a way of making you look better. After getting stonewalled by Quick's glove hand too many times to count in this series, DSP finally broke through in the same way that he did against Dallas: by locking down the right position and waiting for the puck. He wasn't satisfied, though, and he would be seen on the ice either throwing his weight around or buzzing around the net looking for more points. Unfortunately, though, the latter didn't happen too often after the first period.
+5: Ryan Getzlaf (last ranking: +3) - He earned the secondary assist on the game's first goal, and was credited for the second. He played a strong defensive game as well, blocked numerous shots including one in the second that was 110% certainly going to go in after Gibson was down, out, and leaving 3/4 of the net open. Not a bad way to spend your 29th birthday, yeah?
+6: Team Defense (last ranking: NR) - Here's where that last sentence in the '-1000' spot is referring to. Obviously a shutout tells the story of a steadfast defensive effort for 60+ minutes of hockey, but when the offensive effort was nonexistent after the first period, that would be more of an understatement. Gibson played OUTSTANDING in this game, but a lot of credit should go to the guys in front of him as well. The Kings, a very good defensive-minded team that's not afraid to help their goalie out in stopping shots, got in the way of nine tonight. The Ducks blocked 25. TWENTY. FIVE. SHOTS. Including the fact that the Kings had four power plays, all of which failed, over the course of the night, the Duck defense turned out to be the real story of this game. Speaking of which...
+ 1 BILLION: John Gibson (last ranking: NR) - When I was little, it was my dream to one day strap on the pads for the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, and tonight, a man who's 359 days younger than me made his playoff debut in the exact same position. Jealousy aside, his first postseason appearance (in a VERY pivotal game, no less) was identical to his first NHL game, meaning it was fantastic, and I couldn't be happier to see this kid excel. Rebound control was excellent, and the most important part? He kept his net perfectly clean all night. A 28-save shutout, with a handful of "oh wow" stops thrown in the mix, the future between the pipes is very, very promising, my friends.