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Ducks vs Capitals MORNING THOUGHTS: Second in the Pacific

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The Ducks look to stay hot as they take on the Nashville Predators Thrusday night.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Anaheim Ducks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks have now won three games in a row and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They are peaking at the perfect time, which is making for a thrilling Pacific Division showdown. The Ducks threw a beating on the visiting Washington Capitals by winning 4-0. Anaheim even managed to chase ex-Vezina winner Brayden Holtby from his crease in the second period. Although it wasn’t pretty at times, any win in March is key.

Best:

Goaltending

If it wasn’t for John Gibson, the Ducks would not haven been able to come away with two points. Anaheim seemed to completely forgo any offensive pressure after the midway point of the game. This forced Gibson to stand on his head to come away with a 36 save shutout. Although amazing for my fantasy hockey team, this game plan can only be successful for so long. Yet as long as Anaheim keeps picking up points, both the team and fans are going to remain happy. But will this recipe make for a playoff juggernaut?

The most noticeable difference in John Gibson’s game this year is that he looks much more confident. His movement is more economical, and he stays on his feet (minus the occasional swim). He must be watching more Frederick Andersen tape these days. The calm, cool, and collect goaltending style is a huge bonus for the Ducks defensive scheme. Carlyle and company are more than content to bleed shots, but if Gibson is constantly in the right position it gives the defense more time to focus on their game.

The First Period

The Ducks managed to capitalize on an early power play against a struggling Brayden Holtby. After Tom Wilson took an ill-advised, offensive zone penalty, Adam Henrique scored his 20th goal of the season. This seems to be a common trend for Anaheim lately. Score early and turtle often. The Ducks went on to play a well-balanced opening frame that centered around transition offensive that led to a cycle game. Brandon Montour, especially, looked confident skating the puck out of the zone and jumping into the play. It is amazing to see his confidence rise every game after switching D partners in Francios Beauchemin to Cam Fowler. Anaheim kept most of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capital’s shot attempts to the outside, which made Gibson’s job a lot easier. The Ducks went on to carry a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

Worst:

Turtle

Here’s an innovative marketing idea for the team. Wild Wing can be the mascot for the first two periods, but then the real fun begins. If the Ducks have a lead going into the third, Anaheim’s second version of the Rally Monkey will be born. The Cautious Turtle. You heard it here first. The loveable Cautious Turtle will be shown on the jumbotron.

Why can’t Anaheim play offense while defending a lead? It tends to be difficult for the other team to score when you have the puck.

The “New” Fourth Line

Bob Murray was hopeful that his shiny, new toys on the fourth line would create a more veteran presence and uptick in speed. Unfortunately, all that Jason Chimera and Chris Kelly are doing is making noted first line center Derek Grant look like an amazing hockey player. The only time they have shown any speed is when they are so far from the puck that no one can impede their strides. Although they’ve had very little playing time (around 8 minutes last night), they haven’t done much to warrant more of a workout. J.T. Brown has shown more hockey skill than either of these two veterans. Due to their age, excuse me veteran presence, there is a good chance that one of them is substituted out of the lineup in the next set of back-to-backs.

Three Stars

3. Rickard Rakell

2. Ryan Getzlaf

1. John Gibson