The Ducks' Rookies swept the Sharks' in a two game series this weekend. Saturday at Anaheim Ice the Ducks prevailed in a shootout 5-4, and yesterday they won 2-0 with the shutout going to Igor Bobkov. While it is somewhat satisfying to see the Ducks beat the Sharks in just about any capacity, in this kind of situation, results are of little to no importance. So what did I think of the Ducklings who were out there? I'm glad you asked....
Saturday 5-4 Ducks (SO)
Before I get into the nitty gritty of who did what, I have to share a quick story. I had just found my seat for the game at Anaheim Ice, and I was scanning the room to see what was going on, when I noticed Sharks' head coach Todd MacLellan. Naturally I took out my phone to see if I could snap a quick picture surreptitiously, but it didn't really come out. So as I turned around and put my phone back in my pocket I was startled to be face to face with one of the ugliest humans to have ever walked this Earth.
That's right... Mike Ricci was walking up the stairs right at me, eating a bag of popcorn. To his credit though, he wasn't all gross and sweaty, he didn't have the scruffy beard or any niks/cuts on his face from playing hockey and he may have even had some front teeth in. So it was not the full experience of Ricci, but an honor nonetheless. Anyway.... Unfortunately I was only able to catch the first period of this game, but such is life with a two year old. The two Ducks' stars of the first period to me were Josh Manson an Rickard Rakell.
Honestly, I was a little surprised that Rakell was even involved in this. He was the only player on either roster with any NHL experience at all with 18 games last year, plus four in the playoffs and four the previous season. But I guess it showed, he was clearly a go to guy on the power play.
The first man advantage for the Ducks on Saturday fit right alongside what we would have seen from the big club last year. In other words, it was pretty terrible, however, in their defense they've only had a couple of days to work with each other. The second power play was much better and Rakell was the trigger man. I didn't take note of the exact number of shots but he must have taken at least three or four before scoring.
The other thing I liked about Ricky Raccoon on the PP was that he wasn't stationary. Some guys (Ovechkin, Stamkos, Selanne) can make that work, but for me a power play unit is at its best when guys are moving around. Rakell clearly preferred to be in the left circle, but gave the Sharks' killers other looks too from both of the points and digging out pucks from down low.
Manson also mostly caught my attention for one really good shift, but it was even better from the 6 foot 3, 200 lb defenseman. First of all, maybe it was just a matter of being in a more enclosed space at Anaheim Ice, but he looked bigger than 6-3, 200 and he used his size well to win pucks below the goal line and along the boards. But his big shift that made me take notice and check to see who that number 42 was came when he leveled a Sharks player behind the Ducks' net then battled to win the puck out of a scrum in the corner, skate it out of the zone and zip an outlet pass to a streaking forward. I've only heard good things about his play in Norfolk and he lived up to the hype, so good on him.
The only real negative thing I saw from the Ducks prospects on Saturday was Shea Theodore getting absolutely drilled coming across the offensive blueline. As he was carrying up the right wing a Shark nailed him with a hip check from the left side that sent off his feet and flying about five feet into the boards. It was like a hit from a video game that you pause and re-watch from all different angles. Naturally this is a rookie showcase so maybe guys are looking for the big explosive hit a little more than they would in a regular game to get noticed by the coaching staff, but it works the other way too. If you get laid out that hard in a rookie game, you've got some work to do before you hit the NHL.
In case you missed it, here is what some of the Ducks players had to say after the Saturday game on Anaheimducks.com.
Sunday 2-0 Ducks