The Anaheim Ducks dropped the second installment of the 2019-20 Freeway Faceoff series against the Los Angeles in a game that saw more good 5 on 5 play, but special teams and a lack of finishing ultimately driving a sword through non-essential organ spaces in the Ducks’ bodies.
Let me be dramatic, damnit.
The first period was relatively even, though the Ducks got the better of the scoring chances at times. Near the end of the frame however, Matt Roy’s point shot rebounded in front to Tyler Toffoli. He fanned on the follow up attempt, but was able to push the puck under Gibson’s pads and over to the side where Matt Luff had gotten his stick free in the scrum. Luff banged home the loose puck for his first goal of the season and a 1-0 Kings lead.
The second period saw penalty issues creep back into the Ducks’ game when Derek Grant tripped Dustin Brown and Adam Henrique followed it up by basically tackling Kings captain Anze Kopitar trying to get to a loose puck. A long two-man advantage was now on the table. Drew Doughty controlled the puck at the blue line and found a seam to Jeff Carter down low. A brilliant pass and one-timer quickly made it 2-0 Kings on a perfectly executed power play.
Despite the Ducks playing well overall, Nicolas Deslauriers figured he needed to give his bench and Ducks fans something to cheer about. One of the biggest heavyweight bouts of the NHL season took place between him and Kurtis MacDermid in the middle of the second period. The fight was one of the longer ones you'll see in hockey nowadays, with both landing significant blows to each other. Love it or hate it, these kinds of fights bring a tinge of nostalgia to the Freeway Faceoff matchups of the earlier 2010s in a new era of speed and skill between the two teams.
The third period began a significant push for Anaheim to try and even the score and get back into the game. They had the opportunity to do so after Austin Wagner cross checked Sam Carrick to give the Ducks a power play. Without looking at their power play metrics, you would have never known the Ducks have one of the worst man-advantage success rates in the league by the way this play was executed.
The Ducks set up in a 1-3-1 formation (one player at the blue line, three in the middle, and one down low). Max Comtois took the puck along the half wall and got it to Jakob Silfverberg in the middle. He quickly controlled it and backhanded it to Derek Grant who was wide open and one-timed it past Jonathan Quick, who until that point was 2012ing all over the Ducks. Amazing what proper formation, puck movement, and one-time threats can do for a power play.
Now within one, the Ducks began their score effects push to tie the game. The last five minutes of the game shows what is possible when the team not only functions as an unit, but also gets in front of the net. In his post-game interview below, Jakob Silfverberg alluded to the same, acknowledging that the play needs to move from the corners to the front of the net.
"In order for those to go in, you need someone in front [of the net]. That’s the thing the was missing tonight."— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) December 13, 2019
Jakob Silfverberg comments on Anaheim's lack of goal-scoring tonight vs. LA. pic.twitter.com/ub58SRles1
The crowd, relatively quiet for a notorious FaceOff game, was electric in these final minutes. Multiple chances both with and without John Gibson in net came close to evening it up, but it wasn’t enough as Anaheim fell by a score of 2-1.
Up Next: The Ducks will finish up their short two game home stand with a rare Saturday afternoon game against the New York Rangers at Honda Center at 1 PM Pacific.
Best And Worst
Another strong 5 on 5 game: The Ducks haven’t seen the standings success, but there have been several games with relatively strong play at 5 on 5. At this point last season (really at almost every point up until March), strong games at even strength were almost non-existent. Despite their issues scoring, this team has better underlying numbers and better fundamentals under Dallas Eakins so far this year. Considering how many rookies and young players this team has, this bodes very well for the next few seasons.
Defense is whole again: Look, I’m not saying that Anaheim has a vaunted defensive corps. But with Hampus Lindholm and now Josh Manson back in the lineup, Erik Gudbranson being surprisingly serviceable and Josh Mahura showing some promising offensive play driving, the Ducks have a defense that is capable of not putting John Gibson and Ryan Miller through the expected goals torture chamber. Yes I know this is the Kings we’re talking about, but early returns on the full Ducks defense units are ok!
Hey Quick, what was that: Jonathan Quick has been the worst goalie in the league since last season according to Evolving Hockey’s GSAx metric (yes, even worse than Martin Jones). He has certainly not improved much, if at all this year. Unfortunately for Anaheim, he decided he wanted to screw over his favorite opponents and ball out to keep the Ducks off the board for the majority of the game. It took a perfectly-executed power play to beat him despite good chances all night.
The penalty kill ain’t great, Bob: For years, the penalty kill began and ended with John Gibson. The Ducks have been one of the worst teams in the league at allowing shot attempts while down a man, yet had one of the better kill rates mostly because Gibson is an inhuman goalie cyborg (or goalie Jesus, whichever you prefer). While Gibson has been better as of late, the team is not in the bottom half of the league in killing penalties since we found out that the 26-year-old has a mortal side as well. The Jeff Carter power play goal is a good example of their issues defending.
By The Numbers
3. Rickard Rakell
2. Jeff Carter
1. Jonathan Quick