I thought I would do a quick recap of the rookie showdown between the Ducks and Kings in Vegas - since despite confirming that the team would carry a live stream; they then announced at puck drop that it was restricted to within LA only. So I can imagine a lot of folks (including myself) who had been looking forward to watching it would be very mad that they had missed out. But lucky for me - the feed on the Kings site somehow worked!
So here is a short recap with thoughts and player grades.
I missed the first 10 minutes due to the aforementioned stream link kerfuffle but when I eventually tuned in I did take note of the play of Morand and Dostie who seemed to feed off each-other, generating a few chances whilst Hults threw his weight around to create space.
The first line of Comtois, Steel and Terry was as described. Electric. Every time they were on the ice they created a chance and 90% of the time it was Terry as the trigger man. Steel at one point slowed play down in the neutral zone, protected the puck with his body and then sprung Comtois with a perfect go-ahead pass. Comtois then drew the defense and set up Terry for the shot in the slot.
Penalties essentially killed any momentum the Baby Ducks would generate - I can’t remember who took the first penalty but a late period boarding/roughing(?) call to Sideroff resulted in a Kings go-ahead goal.
Kopacka and Sherwood also stood out. Both using their speed to enter the zone at will as well as generally being a pest on the fore-check. Kopacka on one shift created his own chance going against the grain then regathered his own rebound, circled the zone and came round again for a second.
The defense was largely unnoticeable, Pettersson stood out as having experience, effortlessly stripping pucks and sending play back up ice. Hunter Drew did have a few nice breakups in front, including intercepting a pass on a 2-1. I found it very interesting that PTO Simon Benoit was given a game - over Scott Moldenhauer or Terrance Amorosa. He used his body a lot and generally played a safe stay at home role alongside Mahura.
Negatives that I could see - Groulx had a really bad turnover which lead to a dangerous Kings chance.
After being down by a goal the Baby Ducks came out strong, Lundestrom tied things up with a beauty going high glove side as he cruised the slot with speed. Kid has a lot of talent and speed and he doesn't appear to be afraid to use it.
Giovanni Fiore appeared to get the go-ahead goal later on in the period but it was later revealed to be tipped in front by Sideroff. The initial Fiore shot was a quick turn-around low wrist-shot from the very high slot.
Steel, Comtois and Terry continued to look dangerous but at times might have been a little too cute. Where most of the other Baby Ducks lines were trying to keep things simple and just get shots on net, there were a couple of times where Comtois and Steel made one pass too many near the net.
Just after the midway point the Baby Ducks were hemmed in their zone for several shifts, unable to exit the zone until Keifer Sherwood took it upon himself to carry the puck out himself, getting an excellent zone entry into the Kings zone. The resulting pressure caused a rare Kings delay of game penalty.
The Baby Ducks first power play unit had some looks and consisted of Fiore, Steel and Comtois up front with Mahura and Terry at the point. The 2nd unit featured Morand and Lundestrom with Pettersson on the point - sorry I didn't catch the other players on that unit. They didn't get much going though and had a bad turnover which Olle Ericsson-Ek looked very good on - patiently out-waiting the shooter to make the right pad stop.
Another Baby Ducks power play crated another bad turnover breakaway, this time when Mahura fumbled the puck in the neutral zone. OEE again made the stop, looking very calm under pressure.
Mahura made up for his mistake moments later by hammering home a one-time feed from Steel. The Regina Pats teammates looking very comfortable together on the man advantage.
The period ended 3-1 Baby Ducks, shots 27 to 25.
Obviously not sated by their 2nd period outburst the Baby Ducks poured it on further in the final frame.
They surrendered a goal early on some poor defensive coverage but I missed the play or who was responsible.
Lundestrom regained the 2 goal lead when he buried a loose puck past the hapless Kings goaltender, remaining seemingly invisible out front and showing no concern for potential punishment either. I love this kid.
Minutes later the Baby Ducks got another power play and showed off some set piece play with a very very pretty tic-tac-toe passing display that was finished off by Comtois at the right-side post.
I wish the Ducks could have a power play setup like that this year.
Great feed from Steel. Perfect finish from Comtois. pic.twitter.com/X4OH2tv1rz— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) September 9, 2018
From there, the Kings went all “Doug” from the Hangover on this bit. That is, nobody could find them.
Troy Terry entered the zone with speed and ease, circled back around and found 2018 6th rounder Hunter Drew coming on the right point. His perfect cross-ice pass was right in Drew's sweet spot and he hammered home the 7th goal.
A few minutes later Jack Kopacka didn't quit on a play and scored an individual effort spin o-rama goal, 8-2.
On the next shift the Baby Ducks gained the zone and fed the point, PTO Simon Benoit sent a hard shot that deflected in off a Kings blue liner for the 9-2 lead.
The only real threat on the ice for the Kings - Jaret Anderson-Dolan; got his 2nd of the night on a breakdown but by then it was all over. The Baby Ducks finishing 9-3 winners in convincing fashion.
Ratings and Assessments
#53 - Max Comtois: A
It probably isn't hard to look good when you are playing on a line with Troy Terry and Sam Steel but Comtois did not look out of place and had great chemistry with his line-mates. When he wasn't setting up Terry in the slot he was relentless on the fore-check and using his body to force turnovers.
#34 - Sam Steel: A
Started out shaky - and I almost called it out on Twitter but then he appeared to settle into a groove. Standing out in particular on one play when he circled in the neutral zone, protecting the puck to send Comtois into the Kings zone with speed. His defensive game has vastly improved since we saw him last.
#61 - Troy Terry: A+
By far and away the player of the game for both sides. Every time he had the puck he was deadly, slowing things down, spotting trailers. The only time he might have looked bad was when he and Steel found themselves on the penalty kill and the Kings subsequently scoring (but having it waived off due to the net being off).
#59 - Jack Kopacka: A
He got a goal and had several chances, most of which were all created by sheer will and individual effort. His play on the Penalty Kill was also solid. He also set up Lundestrom on the first goal. I cant really say I saw anything bad about his play. Just needs to develop chemistry with whomever his regular line-mate in San Diego will be.
#48 - Isac Lundestrom: A
Two goals should probably get you an A+ but Lundestrom wasn't as consistently dominant as Terry. There were times when he went missing and he was at his best when driving the play or receiving the pass with speed. But for an 18 year old, he is very very exciting. He thoroughly outplayed his 2018 draftee counterpart Akil Thomas and was one of the fastest players on the ice. At this point he is looking well worth the first round selection.
#64 - Keifer Sherwood: A
It probably feels like I am being too generous with my ratings but I really could not fault the 2nd line much at all, the only thing they didn't have that the 1st line did was familiarity with each other. Sherwood in particular stood out on several occasions. He was instrumental in zone exits and zone entries, using his speed and shiftiness to avoid checks. It looks like he has worked on his skating over the off-season.
#90 - Giovanni Fiore: B+
Fiore was the best thing about the 3rd line, his best play in the game was that spin-o-rama shot that resulted in a tip goal from Sideroff. It was a familiar play as he did that a few times in San Diego last year, he seems to love finding that soft area at the very high slot. But much like his time in San Diego last year he was kind of streaky. There were some shifts where he didn't do much at all.
#50 - Benoit-Olivier Groulx: C
Groulx had one glaring turnover in the first period that almost resulted in a Kings goal. It was a play in which he was not under pressure, sitting on the half-wall waiting for the pass in the simple breakout play but for some reason - he wildly threw that pass way across ice to nobody in particular. Perhaps it was nerves but it wasn't a very hockey-smart play. After that he seemed to settle down and didn't stick out too much. He was quietly effective on the Penalty Kill and seemed efficient in the face-off circle. Reminding me a lot of Antoine Vermette - not just because of his number. His battle and hustle for loose pucks and doggedness to create turnovers are positive signs but at best his upside is looking like a shutdown center with minimal offensive aspirations.
#80 - Deven Sideroff: B-
I tried to keep a close eye on Sideroff and he appeared to start out well. Looking good on the fore-check and putting the puck into the danger areas for his line-mates. But he also took a stupid penalty and other than that didn't really stand out much.
#87 - Mitch Hults: B-
Hults appeared to be playing the enforcer role, protecting team-mates and getting in the middle of post-whistle scuffles. He used his size to create space for the smaller Morand and Dostie but didn't get many opportunities. The most notable being a partial breakaway that was quickly shutdown because “Hults skating with speed” is kind of an oxymoron.
#54 - Antoine Morand: B
Morand showed some flashes of his play-making ability, combining with Dostie on a few chances earlier on in the tilt but as the game wore on he became less noticeable. There was one opportunity late in the third with the Ducks already up by 6 goals where he could have taken the puck into the slot himself with speed for a shot but he forced the play and passed across to an unprepared line-mate and the opportunity was lost. I liked his speed but he seemed too eager to force a play and was too rushed with the puck.
#57 - Alex Dostie: B
Like Sideroff I was interested to see how Dostie fared. The 2016 4th rounder had a few looks with Morand earlier in the game but again, faded to the background. He looked good defensively though, responsible on the back-check and effective on the 2nd Penalty Kill unit.
#28 Marcus Pettersson: A
Pettersson probably shouldn't be in this tournament. This game proved that. Felix summed it up in a tweet, he was like a man playing with boys. His NHL experience was very evident as he calmly swatted down zone entries and man-handled forwards off the puck in the corners. None of this was surprising but what was surprising perhaps was his fellow Swedish counterpart did not have as good a game.
#72 Hunter Drew: A-
I am giving Drew an A- because - and I cant be the only one here - I did not expect a 2018 6th round pick defender to look so comfortable. Perhaps it was the calming influence of Pettersson but Drew looked great. Breaking up 2 on 1’s, stripping pucks and even getting in on the goal scoring! He also has deceptively good wheels. There is a lot to like about this kid and I cannot wait to see how his development goes this season in the OHL.
#60 Chris Forney: B-
Forney was ho-hum. He didn't really do much offensively and didn't really do anything terrible defensively. He had several shots blocked and overall wasn't terribly exciting. He is pretty much as advertised. Injury cover for the Gulls when required.
#32 Jacob Larsson: B
A point of contention. I agree with Felix in that Larsson did not really stand out in this game. At all. In a year where he really does need to start proving the first rounder label still applies, Larsson was vastly outplayed by Pettersson. It might be that he had to cover for Forney and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt before drawing conclusions. But it wasn't a great start from Larsson.
#86 Simon Benoit: B
Another pleasant surprise, in fact Benoit and Drew were the biggest surprises in this game for me. I had zero to no expectations for either of them. Benoit was solid. He used his body to great effect, made no mistakes and knew his role. He also showed his age on several plays, looking calm under pressure and getting loose pucks to Mahura to get up ice. Much like Drew, he also got in on the scoring action
#76 Josh Mahura: A
Mahura was the lone natural Power-play Quarterback among the blue-liners dressed but he played the role well. He had no issues being the puck-carrier and either gained the zone himself or flicked the puck to Steel on the left side for the entry after drawing the fore checker. His goal was textbook Regina Pats - a clean feed from Steel for the one-timer. I would have liked to see him be less conservative with his carries at 5 on 5 but overall it was a good start for Mahura.
#78 Olle Eriksson Ek: A
Olle seemed to start out a little under-confident but after a two big stops on back to back breakaways in the 2nd he never looked back. His positioning seemed sound and there was one play where he dared a shooter to go wide before snaring it with the glove. He was calm, patient and out-waited the shooter perfectly on both odd man chances. The only Kings goals that got by him seemed to be traffic related shots from the point or broken down plays in front where he could not track the shot.
Overall the coaching and system deployed seemed more “Vegas-ey” as in - it emphasized puck movement and zone exits were executed quickly. It bodes well that if and when Carlyle finally goes; Eakins has a system that is fast and works.
The next game is against the Avalanche, I am imagining Eakins will ice some of the smaller, faster guys. So look for Soy to get a look, as well as Amorosa.