Quack. Quack. Quack. Mr. Ducksworth. Oh how I miss those fun quirky days of The Mighty Ducks. That’s how hockey came to Anaheim. It’s almost like they want to forget that part of their history. They’re now the Ducks. But they’ll always be the Mighty Ducks to me or any hockey fans who have seen the Disney movie starring Emilio Estevez and Joshua Jackson. With coach Gordon Bombay telling Charlie Conway to take your best shot on the triple deke he’s been practicing against the evil Hawks.
If only the Rangers could borrow that Hollywood movie script after tonight’s debacle. They fell to the real NHL Ducks 6-3 at The Pond. Yes. That’s what I still refer to it. Not after a company that makes my car even though I love Honda. They were brutally terrible in a ugly loss. It was the second game of a back-to-back in California. But this was self inflicted.
In what was billed as Henrik Lundqvist’s return, the Rangers rolled out the welcoming mat for their number one goaltender by having a baker’s dozen of turnovers and blown assignments. This was bad. Lundqvist allowed five goals on 33 shots. None of what I would consider bad. He must’ve felt like going back on vacation. They didn’t treat Prince Raanta this way.
You have to wonder why they play fundamentally poorer in front of Lundqvist. If it continues, maybe they should seriously consider Raanta in Montreal when the first round starts. That’s assuming they remain in the first wildcard and don’t go in the tank completely. They need two points to guarantee the playoffs. That’s a certainty. Outside of that, I have no clue how far they’ll go with puzzling performances like this and the incomplete against the Islanders. Those are playoff caliber teams. Even if they don’t make it, the Islanders play hard and don’t mail it in.
There won’t be any blame game at Dan Girardi or Tanner Glass. Alain Vigneault ended that narrative by resting Girardi in the second game and reinserting Kevin Klein. He got his turn with Ryan McDonagh. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes. So, that’s a plus. He got over 20 minutes including 1:36 shorthanded in 25 shifts going even. However, both Klein and McDonagh were out for a Ducks power play goal from that jerk Ryan Kesler. But it was a nice deflection from distance that somehow found the back of the net tying the game at two in the first period. They reviewed it for a high stick but it looked like Kesler’s stick was crossbar height which made it a good goal.
The Ranger special teams were another sore spot. They allowed a power play goal in three chances to a bad Anaheim man-advantage and gave up a shorthanded goal to known offensive defenseman Josh Manson. The Hansons would be proud. So would father and former NHLer Dave.
There also was a hellacious third period in which the Ducks dominated outscoring the Rangers 3-0. That included a odd go-ahead goal from iron man Andrew Cogliano off a Kesler face-off in which he went forward getting the shot on goal to surprise Lundqvist. Apparently it also fazed Brendan Smith and Mats Zuccarello, who didn’t bother to pick up Cogliano. Kesler beat Derek Stepan with the odd play resulting in a bizarre game-winner.
A couple of minutes later, Ryan Getzlaf picked the pocket of Michael Grabner by lifting his stick. The Ducks captain went the other way and helped set up a back breaking goal from Patrick Eaves. Getzlaf absolutely dominated recording four assists. He has been on fire lately. After a bad first half, the Anaheim captain is showing why he’s still a dangerous player. The four assists give him 52 on the season. In case you’re wondering, those 52 helpers are three less than Rangers scoring leader Mats Zuccarello (55). I was wrong about Getzlaf. He’s still got it. The pass he made to Manson for the shorthanded goal was a beauty.
Nick Ritchie added an empty netter with 1:38 to go. It made a winner of Jonathan Bernier. The former Leaf made 25 saves to pick up another victory. Given the current state of my goalies who are imploding at the wrong time, I regret not making that move. Lundqvist is now in the same company as Martin Jones and Corey Crawford. My team went from first to fourth in less than a week. So much for finishing in the money.
So, was there anything positive to take? Well, the Rangers started okay. You had Smith go back at Corey Perry eventually dropping the gloves in an entertaining scrap. Perry got the extra penalty for holding the stick. But the power play didn’t capitalize. I really like how Smith plays. He is engaged emotionally and physically. A welcome change from an otherwise weak blue line that rarely goes back at opponents. Smith also got a phantom trip which led to Kesler’s power play goal. The kind of weak call that is agonizing in a league where programmed refs ignore blatant slashes, cross checks, elbows and spears from untouchable superstars.
Rick Nash continued his hot play scoring in a fourth consecutive game. He was able to beat Bernier five-hole for his 22nd from Marc Staal and Mika Zibanejad. Staal made a great read following killing off a Nash penalty. He led Nash with a perfect outlet off the side boards that allowed the speedy power forward to break in and get off a seeing eye shot that went through Bernier for the first goal of the game. It’s great to see Nash getting rewarded. This is encouraging moving forward.
The lead was short lived. It only took 3:01 later for the Ducks to answer back. Eaves scored the first of two when he was able to beat Nick Holden to a rebound of a Cam Fowler one-timer for his career best 26th. At one point, Eaves played under his father Mike at the 2004 World Juniors helping Team USA win their first ever gold medal at the IIHF Under 20 tournament in Finland. Now, he’s having his best season upping his goal total to 27 with the Stars and now Ducks following a trade. I always liked him.
With the game knotted, Stepan scored for a second straight night when he was the recipient of a wonderful cross-ice feed from USA buddy Chris Kreider for his 15th at 14:32. The top line took full advantage of a Ducks turnover with Zuccarello and Kreider combining to set up Stepan for the goal of the night from a Rangers perspective. Here’s how it sounded on MSG from Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti:
It really was a well constructed play following the Manson turnover. It’s why I questioned Alain Vigneault breaking up Stepan, Kreider and Zuccarello a couple of months ago. It never made any sense. That cohesive trio carried the team for a month when Zibanejad was out with a broken leg. Not surprisingly, Stepan’s starting to score again since they were put back together. Zuccarello leads the team in scoring. Kreider had his most assertive game in a while. He was dangerous throughout using his game breaking speed to get four shots on goal and some high quality chances. They were easily the best offensive line but wound up on the minus ledger going a combined minus-five. They probably were caught on for the empty net goal. Plus that Kesler odd draw resulting in Cogliano’s winner. The other goal was the shorthanded one.
The game got away from them after Kesler’s power play redirect. He was his ornery self picking on Zuccarello, who jawed with him post-whistle. Zuccarello also went for a big hit on Kesler but missed leading to a dangerous Ducks chance which Lundqvist bailed him out on with a huge save. The sad part about the game was Anaheim got these kind of chances most of the night. The defense was much worse than Saturday. They left too many holes. It could’ve easily been 7 or 8 goals.
Following Getzlaf’s great pass on Manson’s shorty, rookie Brady Skjei continued his amazing play by converting on a one-timer for a nice birthday gift off a nice feed from Jimmy Vesey. Thinking back to how the Ducks got that shorthanded goal, it was Zibanejad’s fault entirely. He made a cute play forcing a pass that McDonagh had no chance on. He also was lazy on the back check not picking up Manson.
Zibanejad is a puzzling player. He can make brain farts like that or miss open shots wide or make good reads like the one that led to Skjei’s tying goal making it 3-3 with less than seven minutes remaining in the second. He recorded two assists. So, he’s back to putting up points. But the consistency is still lacking. At least he’s getting back on track. But sometimes, he makes head scratching plays. Is this why Ottawa dumped him on us for Derick Brassard?
Speaking of puzzling, has anyone seen the guy who wears number 13 on the Rangers lately? Kevin Hayes could be found on the back of a milk carton. I have no idea what’s going on. But even with J.T. Miller back on his line with Michael Grabner, Hayes isn’t doing anything. While Miller and Grabner are involved, Hayes has disappeared. Linda Cohn called him out on the post game saying that he played like he should be at the top of the Rangers unprotected list for the expansion draft. She knows of what she speaks. We haven’t found Hayes. But here he is!
All kidding aside, the Rangers need him to be much better. That third line was so good. Without Hayes performing, it can’t get back to being an x-factor. They will need to be better once the first round match-up starts at Montreal. See how I’ve basically given up on Ottawa. They lost three meetings to the Canadiens. I don’t see them winning that division.
The real frustrating part is the Rangers actually had eight shots in that perplexing third. The Ducks scored three times on nine shots. Two which came 2:04 apart basically taking the Rangers out of the game. They seemed to be skating aimlessly. It wasn’t a lack of try. They just were discombobulated.
Well, they do get a day off before visiting the woeful Sharks. Losers of six in a row to suddenly fall behind the Ducks for first in the Pacific, they have killed my fantasy team. Martin Jones was left in for all seven goals by Dee Be Dah. He really does look like Andy Kaufman. I now have a new reason to hate Pete DeBoer.
Have you ever seen a more awkward photo than DeBoer and Taylor Stevens chest? Just saying. Imagine if Kaufman were alive. Insert dirty boob joke. There was nobody better than Latka Gravas of Taxi.