Predators, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes, Capitals
Scores: 2-5, 3-1, 3-2, 2-1, 6-5
Road Trip Record: 4-1
If you weren’t nervous going into a long 5 game road trip against 3 of the best teams in the league then you are insane. Going in to play against Nashville, Tampa and the defending cup champs is daunting for any team, let alone one that has been trying to find its identity all year long. So, let’s briefly talk about each game on the trip and then finish up with who were the stars and who still needs some work.
Ducks vs. Predators:
The trip could not have gotten off to a worse start as they headed in to Nashville to take on the first place Predators. The teams traded goals back and forth and thanks to a last second goal by Kase in the 2nd period the Ducks were only down by 1 heading into the third. This is, however, as close as they would get to a lead in this one as noted domestic abuser Austin Watson finishes off a hat trick into the empty net, sealing up a 5-2 win for the Preds. Side note I’m still upset about the non-call and lack of response by the Ducks for the crazy dirty kneeing hit on Kosilla. The Ducks cannot just let that one go without a response. Anyway, the Ducks were outshot (per usual) in this game 33-19. Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes for the rest of the trip. At least the moms looked like they had fun in Nashville. On to Tampa.
Ducks vs. Lightning:
Here we go. Ducks, Lightning. Gibson, Vasilevskiy. Wait, Vasilevskiy is hurt. Double wait, Miller is getting the start. Ok we might have a shot here. And we did have a shot as Miller was killer (rhyme intended) and Manson, Ritchie and Rowney put on a show for the moms in Tampa and the Ducks skate away with the impressive 3-1 win against one of the NHL’s best. In this one, the Ducks penalty kill was a perfect 4-4 and apparent power play specialist Nick Ritchie found the back of the net on the PP to give the Ducks the lead in the third. Carter Rowney in his return to the lineup potted the insurance goal less than a minute later and that is all the offense the boys would need to secure this one. Miller made clutch stops all night against one of the deadlier offenses, probably showing off in front of his mom. Probably.
Ducks vs. Panthers:
A quick turnaround finds the Ducks in Sunrise, Florida the next day to take on the Panthers in the last game of the mom’s trip. Mason gets the party started early with a shot from the point that goes in off a defender and beats Reimer. Then it turns into a panther party as Florida is dominating the play with various breakaway and odd man rushes the Gibson stands tall to and keeps the Ducks up by one heading into the first. In the second it is more of the same as the attack on Gibson continued and the Panthers get two to take the lead. 3 minutes later, Ritchie with a beautiful redirection of a Pettersson point shot ties the game heading into the third. The final frame is back and forth with the Ducks getting plenty of chances but just cannot sneak on past Reimer. Until late in the third after a solid fore-checking effort by the captain finds Ritchie again in front who puts it home with less than 2 minutes left in the game for the lead! The Ducks hold off the empty net attack and win it 3-2 and salute their mothers as they skate off victorious.
Ducks outshot AGAIN in this one but Gibson was fantastic per usual. Where the Ritchie haters at now after that one? I’ll be the first to admit he has some problems but he is staying out of the box and is contributing offensively as of late. Maybe he is learning?
Ducks vs. Hurricanes
I love the celebrations at center ice after a Canes win and if you don’t then you just don’t like fun. That being said I was not going to be down to see one after they beat my team. The odds of a post-game celly were looking strong as the Canes peppered John Gibson with 21 shots in the first period, only beating him once on a screen Svechnikov shot from the circles. Now I don’t know what was said in between periods but the Ducks game out a much better team in the following frames, actually out shooting the Hurricanes for the rest of the game. However, it wasn’t until the dying minutes of the 3rd when Aberg would whack at a high puck near the goal that would beat McElhinney top corner and push the game to OT. The Ducks win the faceoff and play the boring 3v3 OT we have come to know and love from this team. Just circling back and forth to lull the opposition into a trance so Getzlaf can sneak behind the D, collect the pass from Lindholm, shimmy in on net and ROOF one over the glove and win it for the Ducks 2-1 in over time. Remember when we couldn’t score in 3v3 over time? Well looks like that is in the past as the Ducks are apparent OT winning machines now! NO CELLY FOR YOU, HURRICANES.
Ducks vs. Capitals
The Ducks took on the defending Stanley Cup Champs on Sunday and boy what a game it was. The Capitals come out rocking in the first scoring a goal in the first minute of the game. Not the start we wanted. Then Gibson shows some rare emotion when his mask breaks and refs won’t blow the whistle so he can get it fixed. Gibson screams at the refs for a minute, gets his masked fixed and then heads back to the net. Seemingly rattled from the situation, Gibson lets in a weird one that is just thrown in to the slot and deflects in off of Dotchin’s skate through Gibby’s 5-hole. Getzlaf catches Holtby sleeping a bit as he follows up a rebound from a Rakell shot and sweeps it under the capitals goalie to bring the Ducks within one. Ducks on the PK later in the first where Tom Wilson deflects one past Gibson. 3 Goals on 10 shots will be all for Gibby as Ryan Miller comes in in relief. Things don’t go much better in the 2nd as the Caps keep pressing and get two more past Miller to make it 5-1 late in the second. Things seem all but lost for the Ducks until Cogliano jams one home to make it 5-2. I’m listening. Then Rakell gets his own rebound off the post less than a minute later to make it 5-3 to end the 2nd. You can feel it. The comeback is on. Mid way through the third the Ducks pot two power play goals in back to back chances with Orlov sitting for two boarding calls. Aberg rips one up top with Ritchie screening in front and Lindholm collects a beautiful cross ice pass from Kesler and puts it in. 5-5, tie game, 11 minutes to go. At this point I am praying for OT. To get a point out of this game would be insane. The Ducks, and Pontus Aberg, had a different plan as after perfectly killing off a Caps power play, Getzlaf, Sherwood and Aberg head down ice. Sherwood, to Getzlaf, to Aberg in front has Holtby swimming and it is an easy tap in for the best waiver pick up in history to give us the lead 6-5 with 5 minutes left.
Ducks yet again refuse to find the empty net but it doesn’t matter as they hold off the Caps and win an unreal comeback game 6-5 to complete to road trip with a 4-1 record. Not. Too Bad.
Miller and Gibson both turned in stellar performances over this trip. Gibson got lit up in Nashville before playing out of his mind in Florida and Carolina.
Miller also showed no signs that he is slowing down as he gets older as he completely stonewalls the Lightning and then comes in in relief for Gibson and picks up the win to move into a tie for first on the all-time wins list for US goaltenders.
Ducks goaltenders finish the trip with a combined .923 save percentage against some of the most potent offenses in the league.
The Power Play:
Going 3 for 16 (18.7%) on the power play on the road trip might not sound too exciting but when you’re the Ducks and being on the man advantage sometimes feels like a punishment, those numbers feel really good. The power play seems to be getting its legs underneath it and that could be a huge step in getting this team going in the right direction.
What a pick up by GMBM! I cannot believe how great he has been since joining the team. 9 goals in 23 games is a great surprise and I can’t decide if it is great or terrible that he is leading the team in goals? His two clutch goals in the third helped complete the comeback for the Ducks. What a snipe that one on the power play was too! A cool part about his success is that he is scoring with different line mates. It seems to not matter who he is with on the ice, he will find a way to score.
This trip was a really nice showing for Big Nick. Something that has always been a struggle for the big winger is staying out of the box. Over 5 games on the trip he only took 1 minor penalty and scored 3 goals with an assist. Those goals were not just fluff goals either. They were clutch game tying or game winning goals. If this is the Ritchie of the future I am all for it.
I don’t want to talk too badly about the team on this blog. We just went 4-1 on a really tough road trip. But there are some things that still need some work. In a couple of these games we were badly outplayed and outshot at times where the goalies would bail us out and we would find out legs late and get the lead. I still want to see a complete, dominating game from this team where we are the best team from start to finish. A full 60-minute effort as the coaches say.
This was a great trip for the team. That is obvious. What needs to be seen is how the team will carry this momentum go forward. This trip could be the turning point in our season and maybe we can keep it going!