The Anaheim Ducks ended January with a pair of putrid performances, getting outscored 10-2 against the St. Louis Blues. It would make sense if they were happy to turn the page and prepare for the second month of the year. The Ducks did just that on Tuesday night, kicking off February with a win over their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks got into the offensive zone early and often against the Kings, blitzing their defensemen with plenty of heavy body checks and good stick positioning. The Ducks’ continued efforts to recover the puck in the offensive zone mirrored that of the Blues from the series this past weekend.
The Ducks’ efforts were rewarded with a goal halfway through the first period as the trio of Sam Steel, Jakob Silfverberg and Danton Heinen battled for the loose puck around the net. It would eventually pop out to the front of the crease, where Heinen pounced on it to put the Ducks up 1-0.
Hard work paid off once again less than a minute into the second period off a standard dump-in from Cam Fowler. Nicolas Deslauriers and Carter Rowney combined in the corner to hit David Backes in the slot to make it 2-0.
Aside from Drew Doughty and Olli Maatta, the Kings iced a relatively inexperienced blue line. The trio of Mark Alt, Mikey Anderson and Kale Clague have played less than 50 NHL games combined. Kurtis MacDermid has played almost 100 games but has never been more than a bottom-pair option and isn’t the most convincing player handling the puck.
Anaheim’s ability to put plenty of pressure on the Kings’ defenseman, especially Doughty, allowed them to win plenty of puck battles and create plenty of offensive chances.
Too Much Passing
While the Ducks did win the game, they could have won by much more. Rowney, Backes and Hampus Lindholm all had opportunities to shoot on odd-man rushes – Rowney had two – and instead decided to pass. There’s a possibility that the Ducks could have put the game to bed a lot quicker than they did if they had put the puck on net more.
Head coach Dallas Eakins has preached getting pucks on net, so there will surely be an emphasis on that with the Ducks having the next two days off ahead of their series this weekend against the San Jose Sharks.
“I would still like us to score more goals. The chances are there, we just got to put them in the net. We still had a few times where I thought we passed up shots.”
–Dallas Eakinsvia post-game interview on Fox Sports West
Fourth Line Strikes Again
Center Derek Grant is currently out with an injury but that hasn’t stopped the Ducks’ fourth line from producing. Backes, who was initially on the taxi squad and has been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions this season, has centered the fourth line in Grant’s absence and scored his first goal of the season against the Kings. Backes had eight shots on goal and also won 12 out of 19 face-offs. “I’m here to help and I want to help this team get better and win and do whatever’s called upon me,” Backes said during his post-game interview.
Deslauriers had his first-ever Gordie Howe hat trick (fight, assist, goal), dropping the gloves with MacDermid just three seconds into the game and scoring the empty-net goal with 46 seconds left in the game. The 29-year-old was rewarded for his play last season with a two-year contract extension and has proven to be a good value for the Ducks since his acquisition in 2019.
Swimming With Sharks Soon
The Ducks will return home this weekend for a back-to-back against the Sharks. The Sharks are 3-5-0 this season, recently coming off a series against the Colorado Avalanche in which they looked heavily outmatched. The Ducks and Sharks are currently tied for the third-worst goal differential in the league at minus-nine.
Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture have led the way for the Sharks, combining for 13 points so far this season. Offseason acquisition Ryan Donato has also impressed so far. The Ducks kept the Kings’ points leader, Anze Kopitar, off the scoresheet, and keeping Hertl, Couture and Donato off the scoresheet this weekend as well should be their top priority.
Huntington Beach native Sasha Chmelevski is currently on the Sharks’ taxi squad and has a chance to make his NHL debut in familiar territory on Friday. The 21-year-old was originally slated to make his debut last Thursday, but was unable to due to a roster issue with the Sharks’ taxi squad.