One of the more low-key rivalries in recent years, Anaheim versus Detroit, is always a game I circle on my calendar. Whether it was the 2003 Western Quarterfinals or that dreaded Game 6 in 2013, you will always find some great hockey when the Ducks and Red Wings hit the ice.
Anaheim came into the game well rested considering their Friday afternoon game against Washington was postponed. On the other hand, Detroit returned home for the back end of a back-to-back looking to get a win at home, something they have struggled to do as of late. Presenting the Best and Worst of Anaheim vs. Detroit, Game Two:
Best: Kesler Continues To Contribute Offensively
With Kesler signing that big 6-year deal over the summer we all felt he would need some big numbers on offense to be worth what he is getting. Kesler was invisible on the scoresheet early in the season but has really ramped up his production lately. Two goals on the night from Kesler brings him to 5 points in his last 5 games (2G, 3A). If Kesler continues to bring the offense alongside his defensive prowess and face-off skill it will go a long way to getting Anaheim into the playoffs.
Worst: Too Many Odd-Man Rushes
Watching that game, it felt like every time I turned around Detroit had a player behind the Anaheim defense or had an outnumbered rush. Detroit's first goal came with Theodore just flat letting Darren Helm for a free rush on John Gibson. Detroit's second goal came on a 3-on-2 rush that found Tomas Jurco alone in front of Gibson. Then, late in the second period, Detroit got another free shot at Gibson as Mike Green got a stretch pass coming out of the box. This time Gibson made a spectacular save that prevented a goal that really could've changed that game. Anaheim needs to be bit more aware of what's going on around them as they were really victimized in this game by the speed of the Red Wings.
Best: Penalty Kill x4
After so many years of having middle to lower tier special teams, it feels so good to watch this Anaheim penalty kill. Penalties used to be such a stressful time for Ducks fans. Now, it seems we have nothing to worry about. Anaheim had another perfect night on the kill, snubbing four Detroit man advantages. The continued excellence of this defense is something I don't think any of us saw coming but are so happy to see. The #1 penalty kill in the NHL went to work against Detroit and was pivotal in getting the Ducks out of Michigan with a W.
Best: Separating Getzlaf And Perry Continues to Succeed
We've seen Bruce try it many times before, separating Getzlaf and Perry to try and boost scoring, balance the attack, and make matchup hell for opposing coaches. In the past, it didn't work and lines quickly returned to normal. But, with Bruce shuffling the lines late in the LA game, it seems he has finally found something that works. The new look lines with Getzlaf between Perron and Stewart and Rakell centering Perry and Maroon have been a huge success. Even throwing Cogliano on the wing with Kesler and Silfverberg has shown great things. While we are still only looking at a small sample size of games, these lines have still been together longer than any of the old experiments. The Perry line produced two goals tonight with Perron assisting on one of those goals while Kesler netted two goals of his own. Seems as though the Bruce Boudreau Line Blender has finally spit out something pretty good.
3) Rickard Rakell
Rakell continued rewarding Bruce Boudreau's trust with a two point game against Detroit. We all seemed to know that Rakell was going to be really good one day but since his move to being a top 6 forward Rakell has really blossomed into a stellar two-way player. Rickard had the primary assist on both Perry goals and was also a positive possession player on the night with a +1 on-ice shot differential. While he is back in the center of the ice he seems no less comfortable playing with Perry and Maroon.
2) Corey Perry
The Ducks leading scorer did it again against the Red Wings. A guy who had 0 goals in his first 11 games has now had four 2-goal games since. Perry's first goal gave Anaheim the edge going into the locker room at the end of the first while his second goal gave Anaheim the third period lead they would not relinquish. Perry looks right at home with Rakell and Maroon and continues his march to what could be a miraculous 40 goal season for the former MVP.
1) Ryan Kesler
First goal of the game. Eventual game winning goal. +8 in on-ice shot differential. 5:40 of shorthanded time. What else do I need to say? Kesler played probably his best game of the season to this point. Both his goals were timely ones as he continues to reap the rewards of having two speedy and talented forwards on his wings. And the fact that his shot suppression was so great when he was tasked with shutting down Datsyuk is just phenomenal. His offensive production has finally picked up and he is showing why we all felt he was a necessary piece to get this Ducks team to a Stanley Cup. Keep it up Kesler.