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Ducks @ Panthers MORNING THOUGHTS: Better than expected at second glance?

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Can going to bed angry soothe the angry beast?

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, sure, the Ducks were pumped for 8 big ones last night. But did the Ducks play as badly as the score line would indicate?

Arguably, the answer is no. Sure it took ~12 minutes before John Gibson stopped a shot, but through the first period and at even strength, the Ducks broke even on corsi attempts, tripled Florida’s scoring chances, and had them beat for high danger chances. Overall conditions, the Ducks came out on top in all of those categories. The period may have ended 3-1, but the process as a whole yielded some positive results.

So what went wrong? On the first goal, the defence collapsed and became stationary. It wasn’t pretty, and Brandon Montour was shown up a little. The second goal was a forgone conclusion once Rakell turned the puck over. Sure you could say that Ryan Getzlaf could have shown more effort getting back, but he was behind play to begin with and is only just back from injury - hat tip here to Owen Tippett for his first NHL career goal, and to do it against a legend - fatigue would be a factor. Also it wouldn't have made a difference, given the goal scorers lead on him. The third goal came again off a turnover, with Holzer muffing the reverse. Sure the Ducks were standing around (a growing trend?), but the goal was inevitable with the turnover. Two goals against born from system errors, and two from simple turnovers (the third goal against was both). The turnovers can be tightened up. They can be somewhat attributed to early season fumbles and Holzer not playing consistently at present.

But damn that doomsaying. The recent AHL call-up and token handsome Finnish man on the squad; the man who went undrafted and signed as a free agent out of St Cloud; Well that guy got 2 shots on net, went near enough to 82% CF, had a beautiful take away, made a hit, won 4 face-offs, and went for ~67 of scoring chances while on the ice. Oh, also this happened:

Kalle Kossila (@Kossila11), ladies and gentlemen, scored his first NHL goal and rolled onto a 2 game point streak. Hopefully he buys line-mates, Logan Shaw and Chris Wagner, a.... protein shake (I suppose they can't drink in season, or shouldn't) because those boys put in some work prior to that tally.

As a brief aside, I found it fitting that Kossila scored his first goal, on the day of the 50th anniversary of his first clubs founding. In 2008-2009 Kossila played for Jokerit U16’s putting up 18 points in 26 regular season games, and 11 in 8 play off games. 50 years ago, Jokerit was founded. Another Jokerit and Ducks legend, Teemu Selanne, skated with the team in Florida. The new Finn on the block tallies up his first. Maybe it was fate. Hopefully it’s the first of many.

Back to the game. Defensive breakdowns again were the tale of the second stanza. Yeah the Ducks managed to out corsi the opposition, but they simply gave up too many quality looks and the Panthers capitalised. On the first goal against the players shuffled into the corner and stood around stagnant. A bad bounce and the immobile players weren’t moving fast enough to change position and bad things happened. On the second, it was a Carlyle patented corner overload. Four Ducks collapsed in on the Panthers player (Aleksander Barkov) on the skinny side and Kase decided not to follow his man (Evgenii Dadonov) into the zone on the fat side. Barkov zipped it to an open Dadonov and it was all she wrote. The final Panthers goal of the period was just a great damn play all around. Derek MacKenzie made Francois Beauchemin look silly, stripped the puck and raced away from him. Lindholm was a little slow back, but the MacKenzie pass over his stick and Barkov’s ability to cleanly knock it down was masterful - his second shorty in the last 3 games; he makes lots of people look silly he's that good. Chalk two up to poor systems play and one on a opposition player’s damn good play.

Then the final frame happened. Or rather score effect happened. The Ducks poured it on. 23-7 corsi events. 12-3 scoring chances. Wouldn't you know it, shooting the puck - even if many seemed to be from the outside - paid dividends. Andrew Cogliano performed some magic and tallied one up for his share of the team lead. Coach favourite and former Panther, Logan Shaw, added his first of the season as part of what could only be described as a Carlyle-esqe scoring line.

Part of that lines “success” in the early part of the season has been new cult hero, Derek Grant, who matched his career points high on this goal. Naturally, because Ducks fans can't have good things, the good came with some bad. Another set defensive play with the Ducks collapsing into the corner and not moving their feet resulted in the Panthers 7th goal of the game. On the 8th, Manson turned the puck over, the ducks collapsed into the corner, the puck was passed to the open man on the fat side. Let me know if this sounds familiar.

So where does that leave us?

Best & Worst

Worst:

Turnovers: 4 goals against coming directly off turnovers. The Panthers had 7 takeaways by the end of the second term, and 9 overall. Poor execution of simple skills is always going to hurt. That goes for double when your team is short-handed and slow. 2 of those goals came from turnovers in the offensive zone (well Rakell’s was close enough), and with the Ducks short on mobile defensemen, and long on old or slow ones, a faster skating team is going to make those ones count. Still, turnovers are correctable. Simple plays, awareness of whats happening around you, and a little luck should clear this facet of their game right up.

Systems Play: Multiple goals coming from guys not moving their feet. Multiple goals coming from collapsing into the corner and allowing the outlet pass to the open player across the crease. I realise that the Ducks best work is done on home ice, but they simply need to do better against these teams. They will certainly need to do better in their next game when they come up against the man who is probably the hottest player in the hockey world right now.

Gibson’s Vezina Trophy Chances: Coming in to tonight, John Gibson was 4th overall for save percentage amongst starters. It’s going to take months of hard work to recover from tonight. Montour and Beauchemin played high event hockey tonight pouring on the pressure. But ultimately they gave up a ton of goals between them and better be making Gibson dinner to make up for losing him that trophy.

You’re not going to win many games with your goal tenders at the bottom of the list

Best:

Depth Scoring: Scoring from the bottom six has been a bright point for the Ducks so far this season. Tonight it was so again. Theres always something heartwarming when one of your players hammers one home against their former team, and tonight Shaw made that happen. Just be a little silly, he also put in work on the penalty kill with ~67 CF% and 2 scoring chances to 0. On the penalty kill. I like it. And of course first NHL goal scorer Kossila showed that he could have a place on the Ducks, should Coach Carlyle give him that. An increase in TOI from his first game says he just might get that. Kossila repaid that faith. Well done bottom 6.

Hot Shooting: As an add on to the above, the Ducks continued to shoot above the curve at even strength. 12% shooting tonight, above the league average, and traditional average, is lights out.

Cogliano’s Due: Robert Downey Jr. took time out of his busy schedule to... what? Andrew Cogliano was finally given credit for being a leader on this team? Beaten up. Teeth knocked out. Goal scorer. Penalty Killer. All around good guy. Surfer. Finally, Cogs was given a letter to show his worth to this team. And dammit it was pretty damn good to see him knock that goal in. Co-leader in team goals and clear leader in team points. Cogs is gunning to get paid this year, and you know what? He’ll be worth it.

Family and Friends: It isn't much, but sometimes we forget that the players are human too. Tonight was the first night that Jaycob Megna has been able to play NHL hockey in front of his family and friends.

Final Horn: One of the many jobs a coach undertakes is to ensure that no team gets too high or too low. Ducks need to wash this one off and get back to it rickety tick. Coming up against the league leading Tampa Bay team is going to be tough and so it will be on the coach, and the leadership group, to make sure the team is ready to go. The final siren and closed curtain on this one, gives the Ducks an opportunity to show their quality.

Three Stars of the Game

3. Radim Vrbata. I really wanted to put the first goal scorers here. But you don't take a trick and not get a mention. Vrbata cut through the Ducks defence like a hot knife through butter.

2. Evgenii Dadonov. Pure Silk.

1. Aleksander Barkov. Vrbata may have gotten the goals, and Dadonov may have shown what made him so desired during his time in the KHL, but Barkov simply took over this game. 1 goal, 2 helpers and all class. Dominant.

And Then?

The Ducks will look to bounce back versus the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning, who are currently boasting the hottest goal scorer in hockey, on Saturday. It’s a 1600hrs PT start, which is pretty much the perfect time to crack open a cold one and watch the Ducks rebound in style.

* All stats, unless otherwise indicated, from naturalstattrick and NHL.com. Figures are as marked.

Post Script

For those interested, there are some ex-Ducks on the Canadian Pre-Olympics roster. Of particular note is Simon Despres. It’s somewhat relieving to see that Despres is in a good enough state to be in the mix after his concussion troubles. Best of luck to him. Ex-Duck’s, Jesse Blacker, Mason Raymond, Andrew Ebbett, and Rene Bourque have also made the cut thus far.