The Anaheim Ducks looked great for the first period, and kind of awful for the last two, and they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights Wednesday night in Anaheim. This marks the third time these teams have met, and the third time the Ducks have lost to the Knights.
The Knights are now 10-1-0 against the Pacific Division and they continue to demonstrate why they are no ordinary expansion team as they lead, not only the Pacific, but the Western Conference with games in hand.
Ducks fans had high hopes for this game as they were seeing the return of Ryan Kesler, who hadn’t played this season after a hip surgery in the offseason. First games are tough to gauge, especially after missing all that time, but Kesler seemed to be skating without any issues.
Anaheim came out playing great to start, winning puck battles and keeping the Knights on their heels, forcing Malcolm Subban to make some big saves early on. One that got through was a feed from Jakob Silfverberg to Rickard Rakell who one-timed it past Subban. The Ducks were in full flight, and then it just seemed to taper off. A late goal from Shea Theodore tied the game and the Knights took over from there.
The Ducks began to spread out and get into bad positions defensively which allowed the Knights to generate quality chances. Taking the lead in the second period and keeping the foot on the gas. The Ducks just began to look slow as the Knights pressured them on every part of the ice forcing them to make long, sloppy passes. They couldn’t generate any sustained pressure and it resulted in the loss.
Best and Worst
Best - John Gibson showed once again why he deserves to be in the Vezina conversation as he made some huge saves to keep the Ducks in the game. His best coming against Alex Tuch on a rebound attempt.
Gibby wouldn't let Alex "Tuch" it in! #LetsGoDucks #NHLDucks highlights ➡ https://t.co/kMLS5H8rBz pic.twitter.com/PZNlAlM87E— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) December 28, 2017
Worst - The Ducks don’t know how to hold momentum. Too often this season, we see the Ducks become a different team each period of the game. After getting outplayed in the first, but keeping it tied, the Knights raised their level of play and the Ducks didn’t.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Shea Theodore - we all knew losing Theo for nothing sucked. The wound re-opened a little when he ripped a shot past Gibson to tie the game late in the first. It was a beauty though.
2. Rickard Rakell - Rakell scored the lone goal for the Ducks tonight. He now has a goal in three straight games which is what we need from the Ducks best goal scorer.
1. John Gibson - another game where the Ducks were outplayed for most of the game, Gibson did just about everything he could to give the Ducks a chance, including some highlight reel saves.
Anaheim has gone through a carousel of injuries this season. They finally are getting the last few pieces back which is hopeful. Kesler is now back in the lineup and soon to start logging big minutes. Hampus Lindholm is looking more and more like his old self. Despite one bad play resulted in a goal at the end of a powerplay, he’s looking more confident since his off-season surgery, forcing turnovers and generating breakouts for the offense.
With all the injuries, the Ducks have been forced to run unorthodox lines for most of the season. Now that just about everyone is back, it looks like it could take a few games to see which lines work best, specifically the bottom 6. With the return of Kesler though, the Ducks immediately look like a deep team with great potential to go on their usual post-Christmas streak. Good things are coming.
They’ll look to find that ignition Friday night at Honda Center against the Calgary Flames, 7pm PST.