Worst: Not Bernier
There was a lot of talk on Ducks Twitter last night casting blame on Jonathan Bernier. Eight goals against can make it easy to point the finger at the goaltender. However, after going back and re-watching all of the Calgary goals from last night, I can confidently say that I only blame Bernier for the Gaudreau goal. While Bernier didn’t play fantastic, and you can make the argument that sometimes you just need your goaltender to step up and make a few big saves, he was largely hung out to dry throughout the game. The Calgary forwards had free reign in front of the Anaheim net all night, as evidenced by the 6 goals that the Flames scored from right on top of the crease. There is a lot of blame to go around in this game, but in my opinion, Bernier wasn’t given much of a chance by his teammates.
Best: Well, Kase is Still Awesome
Kase has played better than any of the other fresh faces that have seen time in the Anaheim lineup this year (Larsson, Cramarossa, Sgarbossa, Ritchie, Theodore, Wagner, Shaw). While he may not have the stat line to show for his play, Kase has been a constant threat when he’s been on the ice. He continued to drive possession last night with a 60% corsi at 5-on-5 is last night’s game. While he only has ten games played this season, he leads the Ducks with a 55.4% corsi for at even strength. Kase is going to continue to create chances on that third line with Vermette and Ritchie and the goals will start to go in soon enough. Keep a close eye on this kid.
Worst: The Fowler/Vatanen Pairing
Let me preface my criticism with this: I like both Fowler and Vatanen. They are both good players and can be great players when used correctly. However, this experiment with throwing your two least defensively-minded blue liners on a line together has got to stop. This pairing is an absolute liability in the defensive zone. And the fact that this pairing is being used more than any other pairing on the penalty kill blows my mind. Last night, as well as in the last few games, Vatanen and Fowler have had a penchant for leaving forwards alone in front of the net. Both the Brouwer and Stajan goals from last night were a result of forwards being left alone in front of Bernier. And both of those goals came with Fowler and Vatanen on the ice. Carlyle should be putting his defensive pairings together in a way that the players on each pairing compliment each other. If RC was to match Fowler and Vatanen with his choice of Lindholm and Manson, you would have two pairings with offensively talented skaters and a partner who is sound defensively and covers their partner’s weaknesses. With Vatanen and Fowler together, those defensive weaknesses only shine through that much more.
Best: At Least Kesler Keeps Scoring
Ryan Kesler looks like he is out to prove that he deserves every penny of the $6.875 million AAV on his contract. Anaheim’s leading goal-scorer through 26 games (wow, who could’ve predicted that) potted two G’s last night to bring his total to 11 on the year. One of those goals was a powerplay goal, his 7th on the season, which ties Kesler for first in the league in powerplay goals alongside Patrik Laine, Wayne Simmonds, and Shea Weber. If he can keep this up, Ryan is on pace for his second 30+ goal campaign of his career (scored 41 in 2010-2011).
Best: A Couple of Tweets From Last Night
I accidentally tweeted out this gem during the game. If you didn’t get a screenshot, well here you go:
Also this tweet from our sister site Matchsticks And Gasoline was a pretty concise summary of last night’s game. Also, the seasonal accuracy was too perfect. Happy Holidays Y’all!
I already said it but Kesler continues to play well and score no matter what the team around him does. Two goals last night puts him on pace for more than 30 goals. Anaheim’s #2 center is playing damn good so far this year.
2. Johnny Hockey
In his return to the Calgary lineup after missing the last 10 games, Johnny Hockey didn’t waste any time getting back into the swing of things. With a goal less than three minutes into the game, Gaudreau went on to record 3 points on the night (1G, 2A). This kid is going to be a thorn in Anaheim’s side for many years to come. And if you don’t believe me, just go back and watch the spin-o-rama move he put on Shea Theodore before the Chiasson goal.
1. Chad Johnson
While Anaheim did put up two late goals in the third against the Calgary netminder, Johnson stood tall all game and kept Anaheim frustrated in the offensive zone. He was the big reason that Anaheim only scored once on four powerplay opportunities and was a huge key to a huge Calgary win.