I’m pretty sure most people expected Friday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights to be tough. And while the numbers (and a good portion of the actual on-ice play) certainly do a great job of making the Ducks look like an AHL team up against a Stanley Cup Finalist, the game had its share of edge-of-your-seat excitement at both ends.
The first goal was anything but exciting for Ducks fans, however. After a delayed penalty against Andy Welinski, Anaheim touched up arguably three separate times. The last of which was pretty much indisputable.
So apparently the refs didn't deem this as having possession of the puck. Vegas scores soon after on the delayed penalty. pic.twitter.com/WHXiY1tXIc— Forever Mighty (@ForeverMightyFM) January 5, 2019
Nate Schmidt would score just seconds later, giving Vegas a 1-0 lead. Carlyle never got an explanation for the call during or after the game, either.
The 2nd period saw Anaheim get it together for two quick strikes within the opening minutes of the period. After Nick Holden was sent to the box for holding Pontus Aberg, Daniel Sprong put the Ducks on the board with a bomb from the point after Nick Ritchie put a great screen on Marc-Andre Fleury.
Just 18 seconds later, Carter Rowney gave Anaheim the lead off a gorgeous passing sequence. Take a look for yourself.
Vegas would tie it up halfway through the period, however, when Brayden McNabb’s shot from the point bounced up in the air off Gibson. Tomas Nosek was there in front to bat it in with one hand and leave Gibson wondering what happened.
Just 30 seconds later, Paul Stastny got a turnover and went the other way with former Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who had been out of action since December 17th with an injury. Stastny delivered a perfect saucer pass to him off the rush that gave Vegas the lead.
With a 3rd period that saw Anaheim deliver a heavy dose of score effects with over 70% of the shot attempts and 79% of the scoring chances, as well as the icing on the terrible refereeing cake, the Ducks found themselves close, but not close enough for what feels like the 100th consecutive game.
At some point, “playing well” and losing just doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s now seven losses in a row.
Anaheim is two standings points behind where they were last season through 42 games. A season that saw them scrambling to make the playoffs up until the final week of the season. With half a season to go, we could be looking at a similar situation as the playoff race starts to take shape.
Best and Worst
Best: The Carter Rowney surprise
When General Manager Bob Murray signed a 29-year-old Penguins 4th liner with only 71 games of NHL experience to a three-year contract, many, including us here at Anaheim Calling, said, “what now?”
I think we need to take the L on this one, at least for this season. Murray saw something in Rowney, and now he has nine points, setting a career high and tying his career high in goals in a season with his tally last night. Being on a 20 point pace from your 4th line center is something not all teams can say they have.
Worst: Anaheim is exposed
Any time the Duck play a game against a team like the Golden Knights it becomes apparent that not only are they hilariously out-coached, but also hilariously out skated. Vegas is one of the poster-children of a modern NHL team, both in coaching and roster construction. If the Ducks want to have any hope of getting past a team like Vegas in the playoffs, well...
Best: Reinforcements are coming
Cam Fowler, Rickard Rakell, and even Patrick Eaves have all skated with the team in recent days. Corey Perry has also been doing off-ice work and is getting to the point where he could start skating on his own soon. The Ducks roster could look pretty different within the next few weeks, and those returning to the lineup are not insignificant additions.
Worst: We apparently forgot to pay off the refs
And they didn’t like that too much. To be fair, the officiating was bad all around, not just on the Ducks side. But the failure to blow play dead after Gibson controlled the puck, the phantom double-minor for high sticking against Kesler where the stick wasn’t within three feet of Eakins face, and the pump fake puck drop that led to Henrique going to the box for a faceoff violation, among others certainly rubbed Anaheim the wrong way.
3. Carter Rowney
2. Nate Schimidt
1. Tomas Nosek