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Ducks @ Predators MORNING THOUGHTS: Defending the Indefensible

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The Ducks first loss in weeks and suddenly the daggers are out, with the soothsayers abounding.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With all the narratives that could have been, the highlight prior to puck drop was the decision to sit Marcus Pettersson in favour of icing a most glorious Francois Beauchemin-Kevin Bieksa pairing. Segments of the fan base anointed this decision the equivalent of throwing the game before it started; whether because they believe that Pettersson is the next coming of Sami Vatanen, or because they believe Kevin Bieksa shows shades of Luca Sbisa, is hard to determine. Nonetheless, the natives were restless. Unfortunately, much like we never saw the vaunted Bryan Allen-Clayton Stoner pairing, Beauchemin-Bieksa also left us hanging. Instead, Coach Carlyle in his divine wisdom decided to move away from the game-winning pairings of the past few games, and cripple all the defensive pairings.

Well did Bieksa show them haters... No, wait. He did the opposite of that. He showed that his leg speed has deteriorated, what he looks like completely undressed, suffered a potentially broken hip, and showed the hockey world what was the worst gap control I’ve personally seen in professional hockey. That was just on one play.

But unfortunately, to crush that narrative, the play of Bieksa and the lack of Pettersson wasn't the kiss of death to the Ducks. Carlyle isn't the worst coach in the world because he made that decision (seriously there is a multitude of reasons why. Choose one of them). For instance, Bieksa being on the power play. It’s more than understandable that a rookie defenseman with ~10 games of experience would need maintenance days. Why not make that day off on an away game, against a team that the Ducks traditionally get into mild displays of violence against? Sure that means that you play the aging ex-hockey player in the rookies’ place. But, surely Randy, there was no need to stick him on special teams? All far and wide knew that the Ducks would need to find a way to score against the probable Vezina-trophy winning netminder. Why throw away golden opportunities to put pressure on him? Swapping 3rd pairing defensemen wasn't the kiss of death, versus the best team in hockey right now. But using one like he wasn't a third pairing guy just might have contributed to the mountain they already had to climb.

That was more or less the tale of the tape. Yes, the Predators are in a different class to the Ducks. But we knew that. Their defence is easily the best in the league. They are a genuine contender for the cup this season. Their first period was a clinic on how to toy with pretenders. However, after going up early they then took the foot off the gas, giving the illusion of the game being closer than it was. Particularly when Rickard Rakell tallied up his 29th and 30th of the season. Unfortunately squandered opportunities meant the Ducks had to pinch when they may have wished not to. The Predators created a turnover, made a beautiful stretching passing play at speed and put the final nail in the coffin.

BEST

Top Line Scoring

Corey Perry made a pretty play, Ryan Getzlaf made a pretty play, and Rakell reminded us all that he’s hit 30 goals for 2 years running and is signed for less than 3.8 million for another 4 seasons. 24 years old, in his sexy goal-scoring prime, and cheap. 3 years ago I would never have seen this kind of production coming, but boy am I glad he proved me wrong.

But to enthuse on the first goal, Perry froze everyone and delivered to Rakell for the easiest of tap in goals. Perry might have lost his goal scorers touch, but if he can do that with regularity he’ll earn my entertainment monies.

Jakob Silfverberg

Silfverberg notched up his 200th career point on Rakell’s second tally for the night. His solitary shot also put him in 10th position on the all-time franchise record holders board (for shots). The silfvering is real people! 4 points in his past 3 games have Silfverberg turning it on when it matters the most - at the pointy end of the season. Given he’s only 27, and this is his 4th career 30+ point season, we can expect more of the same from him going forward. In just 3 or 4 more years he should be within reach of passing the numbers of the man (Bobby Ryan) he was traded for. Certainly, something to get excited about. But for tonight, 200, even in a loss, deserves a nice cold beer. Congratulations, Silf.

WORST

Fights

Ryan Kesler and Ryan Johansen got together for a nice quick cuddle, strategically not long after a predators score. I know these two are meant to have “history,” but staged fights are stupid and pointless. That said the zebras were quick to get involved and break the two players up before they wasted everyone's time.

More Minutes for Old Men

Those who’ve read previous articles closer the trade deadline would know that I figuratively swooned with delight up hearing that the Ducks had signed, and traded for, enough leadership to put the accumulative age of the 4th line well enough over the 100 years old age bracket. Even dumping the leadergrit of Antoine Vermette for the youthful star-ness of Derek Grant has them over the ton. So you can imagine my surprise to see them getting ~5-7 minutes of ice time. How are they meant to use all of that not-really-much-more-speed than Chris Wagner & J.T. Brown if they’re not getting minutes? How are they meant to not be complete and utter trainwrecks if they don't Benjamin Button? Why did anyone think that Chimera should go to the second or third line? Enquiring minds want to know!

The Third Line

They’ve not been very good of late, and tonight that proved true again. Ondrej Kase has developed a habit of creating clean zone entries then coughing the puck up with little pressure. Adam Henrique has long been considered poor in the puck possession part of the game, and that's coming home to roost. His goals happened when we needed them, but as his shooting percentage comes down, he’s looking more and more like a typical 3rd liner and not one you trade a top pairing defenceman for. Still, he’s streaky and we’ll hope he gets hot in about 2 weeks time. Nick Ritchie.... also skates with them? I don’t know, he had a rough game, but at this stage “water is still wet.” As a line, they really struggled tonight and were bailed out by Gibson on a few occasions. They need to lift again, over these next few weeks.

THREE STARS

3. Filip Forsberg - Took hits to make pretty plays. Any number of Predators could have gone in this spot, but the Ducks clearly targeted Forsberg and it bothered him not at all.

2. Corey Perry - Only two men on the ice had more scoring chances or shot attempts. He may have lost a step, but this was a solid game.

1. Pekka Rinne - It pains me to say it, but the inevitable collapse in the playoffs will be all the sweeter for it. Rinne was good tonight. He did his Vezina chances no harm, while his teammates made one of his contenders look silly.

The Ducks face Dallas in an early start on the back to back. Let us hope they rebound in style.