Anaheim held a team meeting according to The OC Register’s Elliott Teaford Wednesday morning before practice. Actually, during practice, as the Ducks didn’t take the ice until almost an hour after they were scheduled to start working.
Given the previous night’s heartbreaking loss against the Flyers just seconds after tying the game late leading to Anaheim’s 6th loss in a row, the meeting seemed logical for a team looking to snap out of one of its worst droughts in years.
It was time to see if the meeting paid off.
With the return of Patrick Eaves and his magnificent, life-giving beard and positive attitude, the Ducks opened the game with some of the most energy they had played with all season. They immediately created pressure in the offensive zone and took an early lead in shots on goal (yes, you read that right).
After about 5 minutes of this, however, stop-and-go play gave some momentum to the Rangers, as neither team seemed to take control of the game.
While it was great to see Anaheim not hemmed in to their own zone for extended periods, we are talking about a New York Rangers team that is openly rebuilding and not really trying to compete. Make of that what you will.
Pontus Aberg, he of the Datsuyk-esque variety, took a hooking call in the first first minute of the middle frame. In came the Rangers’ power play with some surprising talent quarterbacked by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Brett Howden going to the net had John Gibson blocking off the side of the net but unable to control the puck as it pinballed behind the net and to an open Kevin Hayes on the other side. A turned-around, spinning Gibson came around just in time to see Hayes pick up the loose puck and put it behind him for the power play goal and first Ranger lead of the night.
Around 8 minutes into the 2nd, the Ducks 18th-ranked power play went to work. Getzlaf at the point skated down to the top of the circles and delivered a perfect cross-ice pass to an open Rickard Rakell who bombed a one-timer onto 22-year-old Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. The rebound popped right in front to a waiting Jakob Silfverberg who put into the back of the net. Tie game.
Unfortunately, the Rangers would strike back just a couple of minutes later in a relatively action-packed 2nd period. Anaheim, as it often has this season, got caught chasing the puck around their own zone and failed to clear. Marc Staal sent the puck from the blueline to Jimmy Vesey at the bottom of the circle, who made a gorgeous touch pass to an uncovered Howden streaking into the slot and put it behind Gibson.
Another defensive zone coverage breakdown, another lead evaporated.
Score effects (the statistical phenomenon in hockey that adjusts for increased shot totals from a trailing team due to the leading team tending to sit back and defend a the lead as opposed to attacking) gave the Ducks some life as they began to carry play more in the 3rd period.
While getting some good looks on Georgiev (and some horrible looks on a power play that just passed the puck around the point), Randy Carlyle pulled John Gibson for the extra attacker with 2:01 remaining in the game and an offensive zone faceoff coming up.
With less than 30 seconds left, Getzlaf faked a big slapshot, getting Georgiev to bite. Hard. The captain then delivered a classic, “I’m Ryan Getzlaf and you're not” moment as he instead sent a pinpoint accurate shot-pass cross-ice and right onto the tape of an open Rakell. He didn’t miss. Tie game.
The Ducks finally had a point and a chance to break the losing streak.
Say what you want about this rebuilding Rangers team, but the one thing they certainly aren’t lacking is speed. Anaheim would thus have their work cut out for them in the overtime period where speed usually reigns supreme.
Fortunately, Anaheim was prepared and didn’t appear to be flat-footed as play trended back and forth for a bit with neither team getting particularly good looks.
The second half of the extra frame picked up as both teams exchanged scoring chances in an effort to end the game before the shootout, including a golden Rakell chance on a great deke and move to the front of the net. Alas, neither could end it.
Aberg and Getzlaf would take the shots for Anaheim, with both unable to put the Ducks on the board. On the complete opposite end, both Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad would deposit their pucks into the net, thus handing Anaheim their 7th straight loss.
Best and Worst
Best: Solid overall team game
While some could argue that this Ducks team has enough talent on it to play much better than a rebuilding Rangers squad, this was a game where much fewer mistakes were made than previous games. Anaheim still suffered from some of the same problems, but to a lesser extent, perhaps brought on by an overall weak opponent.
Regardless, the Ducks will take anything that isn’t considered a bad game at this point.
Worst: Gibby coming back to earth
The thing is, Gibson hasn’t been bad in either of his last 2 losses. He’s been merely a good goaltender rather than an inhuman, perfectly engineered goalie cyborg. We knew he wouldn’t carry a ~.950 SV% forever, and now we’re seeing the effects of relying on your goalie to steal you points night in and night out.
Best: The captain isn’t aging yet
Much has been written over the last few years about the Ducks core and how they are rapidly beginning to age into the declining parts of their careers.
Ryan Getzlaf apparently hasn’t read any of that.
The captain, while not in Hulkslaf dominance mode, is quietly showing why he’s still one of the best players in the National Hockey League with 10 points in 9 games so far this season and 7 points in his last 4.
Worst: 7 losses in a row
When can we start using the hashtag #LoseForHughes? Asking for a friend.
Best: The return of Major Eaves
After more than a year absence dealing with post-viral syndrome and a shoulder injury, Patrick Eaves made his triumphant return to the Anaheim lineup.
If Eaves plays in more than half of the remaining games this season, you can bet the Masterston Trophy will be renamed the “Lose Gracefully To Patrick Eaves” Trophy for any other nominees.
3. Rickard Rakell
2. Ryan Getzlaf
1. Brett Howden