Anaheim came into Friday's game on a two-game winning streak, with Ben Bishop having been the only thing between them and four in a row. Carolina had lost their last two games but had recently found their offensive touch having scored five goals in each of their last two games. Coming off of four days rest, Anaheim would need a strong showing to keep their winning streak alive.
Apparently, Kevin Bieksa isn't a huge fan of the nickname "Juice," but I think he he gets to keep it until he stops being the anchor that has shown up for the first 29 games. In a game that Anaheim managed to control 62.4% of the shot attempts in all situations (65% at even strength), Bieksa was the only Duck with under 50% possession at even strength (45.5%). Juice continues a trend of poor possession numbers as his shot attempts percentage so far this season is a dreadful 46.5% in all situations. It is frustrating to watch someone who Anaheim has committed another 2 years/$8 million to continue to be a liability on the blue line.
The first goal tonight in itself embodies a worrying noticeable trend from Bieksa in the last few games. Bieksa pushes up in the zone to try and be a passing option for Ryan Getzlaf when he carries to the point, but once the captain turns the puck over, Juice should be hauling his butt back towards the defensive zone. Instead, he leisurely skates backwards for 3 seconds as the guy who was defending him (Jeff Skinner) bolts down the ice to get open. Once Juice realizes what's happening, it's too late and Skinner scores. Bieksa needs to be more defensively-minded, especially when he is paired with a guy like Cam Fowler.
Best: Cooler Heads "Prevail"
Something we have all gotten used to seeing the last few years is Anaheim losing their cool when they get down three of four goals. Everyone starts fighting, the guys lose focus, and the game spirals out of control. We did see one fight (we'll address that later) , but happily the Ducks kept their focus on trying to win despite being down. They didn't start taking loads of stupid penalties and that's was this game was still in reach until the last few minutes.
If Anaheim can keep it's emotions in check this year, they can win a lot more games from behind. Letting the game turn into a street fight has never worked for this team, but they are talented enough to come back in games as long as they continue to play hard and focus on the next shift.
Worst: The Captain Drops the Gloves
Now, I understand that Getzlaf is a tough player and a leader. He doesn't back down from fights and I respect that. BUT, and that's a big but, he is not getting paid over $8 million to play fisticuffs with opponents. I know that Getzlaf is frustrated with his lack of scoring and the team's play in general, but we need him on the ice to win games. The importance of this fight is heightened even more by the fact that the Ducks were already down one center due to Nate Thompson's game misconduct.
Pertaining to the actual fight, I am glad that Getzy was smart enough to immediately pull off Ron Hainsey's helmet at the start, a broken hand would be disastrous. Also, it ended up being a hug-fest for the most part as neither combatant was willing to let the other get his hands free. Getzlaf is better leaving stuff like this to Patrick Maroon. Maroon was back in the lineup for the first time in over a week, and fights seem to be all he has been good for so far this season so make him feel useful.
Best: Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots....
Anaheim absolutely dominated the possession game against Carolina. The Ducks had 62.4% of the shot attempts in all situations as they pressed the issue to try and bring this game back. Seeing that the Ducks led in high-danger scoring chances 20-8 looks like a game you would easily win unless you run into a hot goaltender. Strong possession play liked this bodes well for Anaheim in the future if they can keep it up. This Carolina team isn't the most stellar defense out there, but the Ducks dominant possession play is a promising sign.
Worst: The Thompson Hit
Thompson's game misconduct really hurt the Ducks. Thompson regularly is a subject of ire, but he has looked good since his return from offseason surgery. And losing a center for almost an entire game on a team that likes to roll four lines is not easy. With Thompson in the locker room, Bruce looked to Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler to pick up the slack. While I don't doubt that the two of them can handle the extra shifts, the rest that they lose from that means they are that much more tired down the stretch of that game. Kelser ended up with over 21 minutes of ice time and Getzlaf with nearly 19. If not for his fighting major, the captain would have reached well over 20 minutes of ice time.
On the subject of the actual hit, there isn't much to say. It was a high hit to the head and Nate extended his arm through the hit. I agree with Thompson's comments after the game that he didn't intend to hurt Faulk and that he isn't a dirty player, but I think the five minute major and game misconduct were fitting of the play. I won't be surprised if the league decides that it wants to at least have a hearing with Thompson about the hit. However, based on his history and the fact that Faulk wasn't seriously hurt, I wouldn't expect anything more than a game if they do decide to suspend him.
3) Justin Faulk
Faulk took a pretty hard hit to the head from Thompson early in the game and didn't miss a beat. Not only did Faulk notch two assists on the night, he help the Ducks top line to zero points in 26:22 of ice time. Faulk moved the puck as well as himself well at both ends of the ice and tonight and showed just how bright his future is in Carolina.
2) Jeff Skinner
Do I need to say anything more than hat trick? Skinner opened the scoring and closed it as he netted the third hat trick of his career. Brian Hayward mentioned on the Prime Ticket broadcast that all three of Skinner's goals were different and showed just how talented and versatile of a player he is. His first goal showed of his speed and a great shot. His second showed his willingness to get to the dirty areas as he stuffed the puck past John Gibson from the crease. Skinner's third goal showed incredible strength and balance as he had to fight off Bieksa, who did everything but tackle him to try and prevent the empty net goal. It was a strong game from Skinner, to say the least.
1) Eddie Lack
Eddie Lack played his best game of the season against Anaheim, stopping 31 of 32 shots on goal to get just his second win of the season. Lack has struggled against Anaheim in the past, but beat them in their own building. Lack was not flashy, however, he played his position very well and also did a great job of not giving the Ducks many rebound opportunities. Against a team that like to cycle and crash the net, this was huge in getting the Carolina win.