Final Score: Ducks 4 - Canucks 0
Chart courtesy www.war-on-ice.com
As may be expected following a multi-day break from action for all but Ryan Getzlaf and Radim Vrbata between the two teams, the opening minutes were as much a feeling out process as getting their legs underneath them. The Ducks got the games first special teams opportunity as Daniel Sedin was called for hooking on a play where his stick got caught in the feet of Getzlaf while the Anaheim captain went hard into the end boards and fell. Though it came up empty, the Ducks generated a pair of shots on goal and Patrick Maroon saw a wide open cross-slot one timer stub wide off the heel of his stick.
With the Canucks offense struggling to generate shots on target at five on five, they got a power play chance when Ben Lovejoy was called for interference against Bo Horvat on a penalty decision as borderline as the one the Ducks benefitted from. Anaheim saw the better of the chances on the odd man situation though, with Andrew Cogliano getting a nice wrister from the top of the near circle that Ryan Miller blockered away. Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg remaining hounding on the forecheck, with the Swede forcing a turnover to Cogliano all alone in front but Miller smothered the spinning chance. The advantage passed with the game scoreless for over half the first period.
That all changed when Ryan Kesler won a battle for the puck along the near boards, springing Hampus Lindholm in the neutral zone. With a head of steam he sliced into the Canucks defensive zone, the speed driving back the line of Canuck defense and leaving the far point wide open for Matt Beleskey to tee up a slapper that stung through Miller's trapper with 6:17 remaining for a 1-0 Ducks lead. Anaheim would face another penalty kill when Francois Beauchemin was called for cross checking following a face off where Derek Dorsett was knocked into Maroon's right leg sending the forward to the locker room for the remainder of the period. Though the man advantage produced no shots, Shawn Matthias caused some chaos in the final 30 seconds with a drive to the net then a shot from the far circle, leading to a rebound that Tim Jackman whipped away before a lurking Alexandre Burrows could connect.
Concern was the tone for the opening moments of the period as both Maroon and Getzlaf failed to join the team on the bench at the start of the period, but would join less than two minutes in to allay any worry. In the opening minutes Kesler and Dorsett came together in the Canucks zone with the Ducks center making a blindside hit with a rotating arm that knocked Dorsett to the ice and forced a stoppage in play for trainers to attend to him. He would leave the game and not return due to an upper body injury, while Kesler received no penalty on the play. Moments after play resumed, Corey Perry took a hooking minor, getting his stick caught between Daniel Sedin's legs.
Vancouver could muster only a late break down the slot by Zack Kassian on their advantage, but Lindholm kept him to the outside and prevented a look of any real quality. Afterwards Kassian went looking for a scalp, boarding Maroon after the whistle and touching off a brief fracas that saw Perry quickly come crashing in to grab the Canuck forward. After how-tos all around Kassian was the only penalized player, sitting for roughing. Again though Vancouver got a one-on-one chance as Jannik Hansen drove the same area of the ice with Lindholm on his hip, with the Duck defender forcing Hansen to flub the puck wide and leading to him taking down Andersen in frustration. With a delayed penalty signaled Rickard Rakell found the puck and spirited it up the far wing for Kyle Palmieri, who skated into the Canuck zone and zipped a wrister tweeners on Miller to double the advantage to 2-0 Ducks at 7:19.
Kassian traded placed in the box with Hansen serving his full goaltender interference minor following the power play goal, and though the Ducks couldn't convert on their second straight advantage got a pair of great looks for Getzlaf following good puck movement. The remainder of the period was marked by misses, as a Nick Bonino snap shot from between the top of the circles rung the iron to Frederik Andersen's glove side with just under 12 played. After a bouncing puck handcuffed Clayton Stoner in his own end Bonino tried to feed cross-slot to the back post for Kassian, but Kesler was able to recover on the back check and prevent the chance from testing Andersen.
Mere moments after the face off Henrik Sedin attempted a shot walking into the zone that was blocked, but Vrbata turned on net for an easy save. Andersen wouldn't be tested with another shot on target for the next 11:03, during which the Ducks looked to seal the deal. 2:30 into the period Cogliano's rush into the zone created a seam for Rakell to set up in between the circles and fire on net that Miller slammed the pads shut for. Maroon had another grade-A opportunity at the near post, taking a slick touch pass between the legs from Perry across the top of the crease leaving him a wide open net, but he airmailed it over the bar with just past eight minutes played.
Anaheim finally dispensed with the drama over a minute later, when Sami Vatanen swung the puck around to the far wall for Stoner, who hit Rakell in stride through the neutral zone into the Canucks end. With the defenders backing off Rakell ripped a shot off the bar and in blocker side on Miller to make it 3-0 Ducks. From then on Vancouver struggled mightily to get shots on net, having an opportunity with Horvat trying to find Hansen snuffed out by a sensational back-diving block by the stick of Stoner. The Canucks pulled Miller intermittently from the 4:28 remaining mark as they got offensive zone time, but in a bit of karmic justice Kassian over skated the puck with 32 left allowing Maroon to hit the empty net for the final 4-0 Ducks scoreline. Andersen had to make only seven of his 17 saves for the game over the final two periods in collecting his third shutout of the season, as the Ducks stifled and snuffed out nearly every opportunity for the hosts.
Good: Anaheim controlled basically every facet of this game. Harassing the Canucks on the forecheck, deftly handling Vancouver's to exit the defensive zone, getting goals from all over the lineup, shutting the Canucks down while still creating chances in the later periods "score effects" time... The list can just keep going, and while it may be as much an indictment of the flawed opposition, it was a very impressive effort that should serve as a template to try and replicate against the coming challenging opponents in a "has your number" Sharks side and established championship-caliber power Blackhawks.
Bad: Kesler's hit on Dorsett was not good, and though the center did his best after the game to make his case that it was simply a hockey play, it would not surprise if it warrants some attention from the league. The followthrough in particular, while at no point having the point of the elbow make contact, is enough to illustrate the intent to make the hit and it also emphasizes the contact with the head.
Ugly: Some minutes later Kassian's hit on Maroon after the whistle was about as pigheaded a response as could be made to Kesler's hit. It was late, Maroon was multiple feet from the boards, and clearly meant with ill intent. The Ducks immediate coming to Maroon's aid (Perry in particular flying in like a luchador) was good, and converting on the ensuing power play made it all the better.
3rd MVD: Ryan Kesler - While the hit is probably the biggest storyline coming out of the game following him, Kesler was impactful in every way which Anaheim anticipated when they acquired him. He helped set up Beleskey's opening score with some solid board work to spring Lindholm. He made several plays in the defensive end, on the penalty kill and otherwise, back checking to diffuse opportunities. He was masterful in the faceoff circle, winning 67% of his drops. In essence, it was a "greatest hits" version of his game against a side who for so many years benefitted from it.
2nd MVD: Rickard Rakell - Ricky's growing into the NHL game and the subsequent evolution of his line with Cogliano and Silfverberg will be one of the keep deep points to keep in mind when the national media starts discussing this team's Cup competitor credentials. A two point night, his third game of the past seven to make the scoresheet, and a tied for team high four shots on goal speak to a player comfortable at the most competitive level of the game. No longer looking to fit in and find his way, now Rakell is finding ways to create and take chances and impact games.
1st MVD: Hampus Lindholm - A nice drop pass to tee up Beleskey's blast through Miller's glove, a pair of fantastic one-on-one defensive plays to neutralize building danger, and so many calm and collected plays moving the puck around and out of the defensive zone. Brian Hayward was effusive in his praise (as is his wont) of Lindholm as a future star, and with nights like tonight become more and more the regular, that future may not be as far off. His pairing with Beauchemin created the highest net shot attempt differential for the defenders, and at 20:33 of ice time saw the third most amongst the unit.
Next Game: Thursday, January 29, 2015 at San Jose, 7:00 PM PT