The Anaheim Ducks completed the sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in a nail-biting 5-3 victory at Honda Center, giving the Ducks a much needed two points and moving them to within two points of a Wild Card spot. The Ducks carried a 4-1 lead into the final frame of regulation and still managed to turn everyone into a nervous wreck, allowing Pittsburgh to pull within one with six minutes still remaining.
The so-called “turtle defense” strategy of Randy Carlyle has seen the Ducks let leads slip away late in games, resulting in either games like tonight that are closer than they need to be, or into blown leads and dropped points in the standings entirely. However, that begs the question: Is this strictly the fault of Randy Carlyle’s strategy of how to play with a lead, or is there something deeper that the Ducks need to correct?
The Ducks still managed to have three breakaway chances in the third period alone, and had they scored on any of those three, the game would have been put essentially out of reach and therefore been much more comfortable for Ducks fans to watch.
Arguably, the most bothersome part to me is that Randy Carlyle never seems to be concerned with the fact that the Ducks find themselves in tight games at the end when it very easily could have been a convincing win had the third period been played differently.
: "I'm proud of our guys. We played a pretty good team over there; a team that's playing fast and playing the right way right now, and we found a way to get two points." - Randy Carlyle #LetsGoDucks pic.twitter.com/S8uPuaVcRF— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) January 18, 2018
“We hit two posts in the 3rd, so it’s not like we didn’t get our chances. We had our chances, and it was disappointing obviously that we took two penalties and they scored two goals to make it exciting...” - Randy Carlyle
I can’t be the only one concerned with the fact that Carlyle seems one hundred percent content with Pittsburgh dominating most of the possession and offensive zone time throughout the third period, as long as Anaheim gets a breakaway chance the other way here or there.
Best & Worst
Ondrej Kase - Kase added another goal to his total for the season, and he played one hell of a game. He was all over the ice, had a second breakaway that he hit the post on, and just all-around seemed to be a puck magnet. The kid is the real deal, folks.
John Gibson - John Gibson continues to be the brick wall that the Ducks need him to be if they are going to get themselves comfortably into a playoff position come April. He made a couple dandy saves, especially late in the game
Ryan Getzlaf - Ryan Getzlaf gets the honorable mention in the best category for hitting his 600th career assist on the Rakell goal early in the 2nd period. We love you Captain.
Kevin Bieksa & Jared Boll - I’ll just go ahead and loop these two in together. Jared Boll offered virtually nothing to the game outside of taking a penalty. Despite the fact that the Ducks scored shorthanded during that penalty, giving the league’s best power play unnecessary chances is pretty dumb. Meanwhile, Bieksa had a few bad turnovers, one of which opened the scoring for Pittsburgh.
The Turtle Strategy - Seeing the Ducks win convincing games like the 5-0 win over Vancouver, or even the 4-0 victory over Pittsburgh, is very reassuring. However, watching a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes turn into 4-3 after 54 minutes can be tough on the ol’ lifespan. I think I can speak for many when I say that seeing the Ducks be more aggressive offensively with big leads and not just relying on the chance of breakaways to ice the game.
Ryan Kesler - He just simply...hasn’t been himself since he’s returned from injury. He did a good job shutting down Sidney Crosby and preventing him from having an abundance of scoring chances (which is no small task, certainly), but I think everyone is hoping to see a bit more from Kesler moving forward.
3 Stars of the Game
3. Rickard Rakell - His goal started the onslaught of goals for the Ducks in the 2nd period. His hands continue to be among the best in the league.
2. Adam Henrique - Henrique continues to prove that he was a valuable addition for the Ducks in the Sami Vatanen trade. He only finished with a single point on the night with his wrap-around goal, but it couldn’t have come at a better time to keep the momentum rolling for Anaheim.
1. Ondrej Kase - What more can I say? He’s got the awareness, he’s got the puck-handling skills, he’s got the finishing ability. He seems to be able to always find ways to put himself in the best positions to be able to generate scoring opportunities.