Thanks to a penalty shot by Troy Terry in overtime, the Anaheim Ducks capped off their five-game road trip with a thrilling win over the St. Louis Blues. With two back-to-backs sandwiched into their week away from home, taking 10 out of a possible 12 points is a huge win for the Ducks.
Extension for Eakins Coming Soon?
It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for head coach Dallas Eakins since he arrived in Anaheim three seasons ago. The Ducks finished below .500 in Eakins’ first two seasons with the club and were the second-worst team in the entire league last season. But, things are different now after a revolution of changes to the coaching staff around Eakins. Mike Stothers and Geoff Ward bring loads of experience while Newell Brown returned for his third stint as Ducks assistant coach. Their influence has been a big part of why the Ducks have fared much better this season.
Eakins is in the last year of his contract. We’ve already seen a handful of head coaches receive contract extensions this season (Jon Cooper, Jared Bednar, Sheldon Keefe), and it’s quite possible that Eakins may be next to sign on the dotted line. At least Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman seems to think so. Of course, the Ducks front office has been doing some shuffling of its own after former general manager Bob Murray’s resignation, so it’s possible that contract talks have been tabled until after the season concludes.
A candidate for the Jack Adams Award, Eakins has succeeded as a head coach this season thanks to a great support staff and the continued development of youngsters like Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, and Isac Lundestrom.
Getzlaf Returns from Injury, Gibson Leaves with One
After spending a week on injured reserve, Ryan Getzlaf returned for the Ducks’ weekend doubleheader. Though he didn’t register a point, the captain’s influence could be seen as the flow of the offense had a different flow to it. The main beneficiary of his return is Terry, who is in the midst of a career season and gaining traction for Olympic team consideration. The 24-year-old managed just two points in the five games that Getzlaf missed but buried two goals on Sunday with Getzlaf back in the lineup.
Adam Henrique, who flanks the left side of the Getzlaf and Terry line, is still recovering from an injury of his own. But the pairing of Getzlaf and Terry has still been able to produce, with or without Henrique.
Though the Ducks regained the abilities of a key figure in Getzlaf, they may have lost another for the time being in John Gibson. The netminder was removed from Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins due to a lower-body injury, with backup Anthony Stolarz finishing out the game. Lukas Dostal was recalled from the American Hockey League (AHL) to provide backup for Sunday’s game, with Stolarz starting.
Dostal was reassigned to the AHL on Monday but was recalled yesterday, suggesting that Gibson won’t be able to go for Wednesday night’s game against the Seattle Kraken. Starts have been infrequent for Stolarz this season, but aside from a five-goal allowance against the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 1, he has allowed just two goals on 95 shots in his last five appearances.
Zegras Responds to Torts
It was a goal that was burned into the minds of hockey fans all over the world. A lacrosse goal (also known as “The Michigan”), sure that had been done before. Numerous times, in fact, by the same player, Andrei Svechnikov. But a Michigan pass? It’s something we’ve seldom seen attempted. Zegras and Sonny Milano not only connected on this play, but they also completed it with swagger and ease.
Zegras’ hands-on-head reaction of astonishment after Milano batted in the puck, followed by his endless fit of giggling on the bench once it was confirmed a good goal, was all over the ESPN+ broadcast. Predictably, the young center fielded a plethora of media requests over the following days.
But one person, in particular, didn’t seem to think the kind of swagger and finesse that the New York State duo pulled off was good for the game of hockey. That person was John Tortorella. The former Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach (you can count that Vancouver Canucks stint if you want) had this to say about the goal:
“I’m not trying to be a fool here, I’m just not so sure it’s great for the game. If you did that back in the 2000s, late ’90s, you would get your head taken off. It’s cool; it’s cool to watch and all that, but I’m not so sure it’s good for the game. And I stand by that.”
-John Tortorellavia NHL on ESPN
Zegras, who grew up a huge Rangers fan, said that he’s not really too worried about what Tortorella is thinking or saying. “I thought it was just weird that he would try and kind of ––I don’t want to say shoot it down––but I feel like it did so much good for the game.” (from, ‘Ducks’ Trevor Zegras says John Tortorella comments on highlight assist were ‘weird,” The Athletic, 12/14/21).
Of course, Tortorella is entitled to his opinion––as is Zegras. The former’s coaching style has never been one to include much flash or flair for the most part, so the former’s comments don’t come as a complete surprise.
Coming off two days’ rest, the Ducks will host the Kraken tonight for the first time in franchise history. The teams’ first matchup in Seattle last month was an offensive showcase, with 11 goals being scored. The Ducks walked away with a 7-4 win, but it was also the last game Max Comtois appeared in. The winger underwent surgery shortly after to repair a broken bone in his right hand and has yet to return, though he has been practicing with the team as of late.
Derek Lee is a contributor for The Hockey Writers covering the Anaheim Ducks. Derek has spent nearly two decades immersed in the world of sports and has been writing about sports for five years. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Communication in May 2020 from UCCS in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he also spent two and a half years on staff with their on-campus student newspaper–both as a sports reporter and editor. In his free time, he enjoys playing FIFA, curating his Spotify playlists and attending concerts & sporting events