I will admit that I feel like I am one of the few die-hard hockey fans that actually enjoys the shootout. In fact, I talked about my love of the shootout on last night’s post game podcast (shameless plug, listen to my voice please).
That said, it’s a bit difficult to truly enjoy it when your team seems to be losing them constantly. That has been the theme lately, when, realistically, the Ducks should have come away with the win.
The majority of the first period was fun to watch, with each team playing a wide open game by trading chances up and down the ice, something that I would say is a victory against a fast-skating and possession-hound Vegas team.
However, that all went into the blackjack table ash tray when our worst nightmares came to life as Kevin Bieksa and Francois Beauchemin led a complete breakdown in defensive coverage in front of the net for James Neal and Oscar Lindberg to make it 2-0 Golden Knights in a matter of 16 seconds.
The second frame was much, much better from a defensive standpoint; a period that the Ducks should look to build on. The team still has some work to do on generating shot attempts, having only 15 CF (corsi-for events). But they limited Vegas to a minuscule 11 CF, which was a minor miracle given the 34 CF given up in the 1st period and the 21 CF in the 3rd. Luckily for Anaheim, they managed to convert 3 of their 8 shots on goal in a totally sustainable run.
However, once again the Ducks would decide to sit on a lead, and once again, it would come back to haunt them. For awhile, the strategy seemed to work. Carlyle and co. got the team to effectively clog up the neutral zone and allow very few clean entries for the quick Golden Knights. However, things started to break down as Vegas began to wear down the slower skaters on the Ducks. It culminated in Erik Haula tying the game with less than 5 minutes remaining. Another lead blown, another having to settle for one point.
While I believe that it is impossible to truly and completely evaluate this team based on the number of forward injuries, the fact that Anaheim sits in the middle of the pack of shot generation but is still giving up more shots than a bar going out of business shows that there is a defensive coaching problem. Getting good two-way forwards like Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, and Jakob Silfverberg back will not be enough to make this team even average at shot suppression. I seriously hope Carlyle and Murray are looking at changing things up on that end ASAP.
Overall, while it was frustrating that the team blew another late lead and lost again in the shootout, this team has played with an extra burst of energy that was not seen in contests like the Blackhawks, Panthers, and first Golden Knights game. This is a team that, at least offensively, has the potential to be one of the top clubs with a fully healthy forward lineup.
But this coaching staff has at their disposal one of the top on-paper defenses in the league. The fact that they are giving up the most shots against out of anyone in the National Hockey League is alarming. Luckily, there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played. Carlyle was brought in for accountability and proved last season that he was capable of making adjustments.
Let’s see if he can pull it off now.
1. Erik Haula
2. Malcom Subban
3. John Gibson