Ordinarily, ducks quack to be noticed.
But the Anaheim Ducks, benefitting greatly from a scorching start to their hockey season, are making much more noise than that. Until a recent downturn, they were clearly in full throat mode. They were bellowing. They were roaring. In fact, they were causing such a racket, the rest of the teams were holding their ears to protect themselves from the din. No other team was being heard like the Ducks.
Most sportswriters are intrigued, curious, and fascinated to see a club on a big time roll. Why? Well, because you’ve got to have an awful lot going for you to take off on an extended run. The gears have to be meshing, the chemistry has to be flowing, and the karma has to be perceptible enough to where you can almost see it. When it all comes together and it’s played out over an extended period, it can be a mesmerizing thing to watch.
The Ducks recently found themselves in such a zone. Thus, this writer wanted to witness this high flying act in person and see what Ducks on a wing really looked like.
November 10th at the Honda Center was proof positive that the Ducks are both real and legit. Not only did they dispatch the game Vancouver Canucks but the Ducks got the job done without their captain and leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf and their top goaltender Jonas Hiller.
Getzlaf was sidelined with an upper body injury and Hiller was getting a blow with a night’s rest. But Anaheim scarcely missed a beat. Opportunistic, committed, and playing passionately, particularly in periods two and three, the Ducks extended their home record to a perfect 8 and 0.
As an excited crowd of 17,174 headed towards the exits, many delighted in knowing they had just seen the one of the NHL’s most formidable teams in action, Anaheim’s then gaudy 15-3-1 record clear evidence of that.
Though this was a win with many fingerprints, a few of them were more prominent.
At the forefront of the Duck assault was the gifted Corey Perry, a tough, elite, and consistently clutch right winger. As an assistant captain, Perry knew the onus fell to him to pick up the slack for Getzlaf’s absence and he accomplished that task like it was no sweat.
Perry scored the game’s first goal when he demonstrated some keen creativity. The 6-3, 212-pounder made like a soccer player by heading a deflected puck down near his stick before neatly pushing it across the goal line.
Later, Perry was the igniter of a sweet tic-tac-toe sequence that saw him leave the puck for Emerson Etem, who in turn made a sublime feed to Nick Bonino, the centerman finalizing things by banging the puck into a wide open net.
Though his reputation has been built on being a deadly sniper, Perry’s passing is nothing to sneeze at. Make no mistake, Perry is no one-trick pony. Shooting or passing, this guy is danger personified..
While Perry was the offensive catalyst for Anaheim, Danish netminder Frederik Andersen was holding forth at the other end like a one-man fortress. A veritible Great Wall of China with pads. The Canucks peppered the 24-year-old backstop with 36 shots, only one of which eluded him.
Though he was stout throughout, the 6-4 Andersen was particularly dynamic when he twice thwarted rushing Canuck defenseman Kevin Bieksa from close range. Bieksa was dazzling while penetrating the Duck defense and closing in on Andersen. But the Duck goalie was even more spectacular with his stops. Worth mentioning is that with the victory, Andersen became the first netminder since December of 1993 to win his first six NHL starts.
Though Perry and Andersen provided the lead, there were still plenty of other Ducks who weren’t just along for the ride. There were contibutors aplenty.
Centerman Andrew Cogliano was a presence with his speed, agility, and grit. Following # 7 was sometimes a challenge because he often appeared a blur. Cogliano also got on the scoresheet when he corralled a loose puck along the boards and whipped it into an empty net to complete the night’s scoring.
In addition to his second period goal, Bonino was quite visible with his puckhandling and work on the backcheck. Veteran winger Dustin Penner showed good jump on his skates and did some admirable banging in the corners. Youngster Devante Smith-Pelly delivered a couple of resounding checks that energized both the crowd and his teammates. He also chipped in with an assist. The ageless Teemu Selanne was a threat on the rush and was surprisingly strong on the puck. Etem’s picturesque assist to Bonino only served to underscore the gold mine of potential he could tap into.
And on the backend, mainstays Francois Beauchemin and Cam Fowler were rock steady, headmanning the puck with aplomb, joining the rush when the chance presented itself, and, for the most part, keeping the lanes clear so that Andersen got good looks at the rubber fired at him.
This was a well-rounded performance, worthy of a team that was riding high. In all departments, the Ducks passed muster. Nowhere could deficiences be found.
So, for the present, everything looks to be Ducky in Anaheim. Based on what happened to Vancouver, there’s no reason it shouldn’t remain so.
The Ducks’ call was unmistakable, it was loud and clear. No doubt, the rest of the NHL heard the commotion.