Four consecutive Pacific Division titles, 208 regular season wins, and a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2015.
All those accolades weren’t enough for former Anaheim Ducks’ head coach Bruce Boudreau to get a video tribute in his first game back at Honda Center on Sunday night.
As if the former coach didn’t already have enough motivation going into it, perhaps that strange omission provided a final jolt as he steered his Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 victory over the Ducks
The Boudreau-led Wild resembled a combination of recent Ducks’ teams. Much like the Ducks of 2014-15, they were quick to counter-attack when given the opportunity. Yet, like the 2015-16 Ducks, they were also able to choke the life out of their opponent defensively.
It was a master class in every sense of the term, as the current iteration of the Ducks were flat out dominated through 40 minutes of play, with only 27 shot attempts to Minnesota’s 53. Though Randy Carlyle’s team pushed in the final period, it was simply too little, too late.
Boudreau will never publicly discuss it, but there were murmurs all throughout his Anaheim tenure that he didn’t have the most harmonious coexistence with Ducks’ general manager Bob Murray. After Sunday night’s game, it felt as if that chapter of franchise history had officially come to a close, with Boudreau having the last word.
With national media in the house, all the focus prior to puck-drop was on assistant captain Ryan Kesler. NBCSN’s “Star Cam” would track his every movement, bringing to light the 32-year old’s arsenal of cross-checks and general tomfoolery, all in the name of getting under the opposition’s skin.
2017 – still the year of #KesBoss. #LetsGoDucks pic.twitter.com/hAWPXGkitk
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) January 9, 2017
It’s difficult to say how much Kesler’s antics truly resonate anymore, with Eric Staal firmly ignoring them throughout much of the contest. He did provide the ultimate irritant for Minnesota, however, as he notched the first goal of the night to become Anaheim’s leading goal-scorer. Though the final shot count gave the impression of a close game, the final shot attempts in the first were 22-13 at even strength in favor of the Wild, reflecting just how much they’d controlled play.
The Wild would continue to control play in the middle period. “Control” might actually be selling short just how dominant they were for 20 minutes. They out-classed Anaheim in every facet of the game: even strength, power play, and penalty kill.
👏 Jared Spurgeon's 5th of the year. #MINvsANA pic.twitter.com/DWhvPHtcoY
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) January 9, 2017
Matt Dumba would strike first for the Wild, drilling home a one-timer with two Ducks sitting in the penalty box. Ducks’ goaltender John Gibson protested the play, claiming that his mask had come loose, though he’d made no attempt to just shake off the mask as goaltenders tend to do in those circumstances.
The young Gibson was visibly rattled by the goal, taking a needless roughing penalty to send the Wild back on the power play. Jared Spurgeon would strike again for Minnesota, wiring home a perfect wrist shot thanks to some beautiful puck movement. Anaheim did themselves no favors, taking a litany of penalties while looking dysfunctional on the power play.
Anaheim, looking for a better effort to start the third, managed to dodge a bullet early on thanks to a disallowed Minnesota goal, where Nino Niederreiter clearly kicked the puck into the net.
— steph (@myregularface) January 9, 2017
That would prove to be Anaheim’s last shining moment of the night, as they failed to get a single puck past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk throughout the rest of the period. Corey Perry continued his goal-scoring struggles, even passing up an obvious shooting opportunity in the dying seconds of the game.
Perry has largely avoided criticism this season, but if he continues on his alarmingly low pace, those voices might start to get a lot louder. If there is any silver lining to be gleaned for Anaheim in this one, it’s that the young Brandon Montour continues to impress since being called up from San Diego, providing some stellar playmaking from the blueline.
With rumors swirling around Matt Duchene’s availability in Colorado, perhaps the youngster’s play turns a defenseman on Anaheim’s roster into a potential trade chip. Murray will face some tough decisions regarding his defense corps leading up to the expansion draft, and Montour is only thickening the plot.
ANA –Ryan Kesler (16) assisted by Jakob Silfverberg (15)
MN – Matt Dumba (6) assisted by Zach Parise (12) & Eric Staal (22)
MIN – Jared Spurgeon (5) assisted by Jason Pominville (11) & Jason Zucker (16)
THW Three Stars
First: Jared Spurgeon (game winning goal)
Second: Devan Dubnyk (stopped 23 of 24 shots)
Third: Eric Staal (one assist, eight shots on goal)
Montreal Canadiens at Minnesota Wild
Xcel Energy Center – 7:00 p.m. CT on Thursday, January 12
Broadcast channels – Fox Sports North & SNE
2016-17 Season Series: Dec. 22 Minnesota (4) – Montreal (2)
Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center– 7:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday, January 10
Broadcast channels – PT25 & FSSW
2016-17 Season Series: Oct. 13 Dallas (4) – Anaheim (2), Dec. 13 Dallas (6) – Anaheim (2)