Maybe shortened seasons aren't so bad after all. After defeating the Minnesota Wild 3-1, the Ducks are now 4-1-1 to start the season. Historically, Anaheim is a slow starter and picks up speed in the second half of the season. This time, instead of having to play catch up, the Ducks are doing just fine holding their own and improving.
Coach Bruce Boudreau is unafraid to shake up his line combinations. While the first and third lines have been productive, the second line was not doing as much. So put Bobby Ryan at center (an experiment that had been attempted before with not much success) and settle Teemu Selanne and Kyle Palmieri on the wings.
Palmieri had two of the Ducks goals (an appropriate way to celebrate your 22nd birthday). Ryan had the insurance marker. And that old Finnish Flash? He has now been dubbed the Finnish Facilitator with three assists.
"Me and Bobby both had basically tap-ins and they were all because of Teemu's passing," said Palmieri after the game. "I think it gets a little overlooked because of how many goals he's scored. The crazy amount of ways he finds the back of the net. That vision definitely doesn't stop at goal scoring. It helps in finding other guys and the open guys on the team."
The Wild got the scoring going in the first period with Marco Scandella putting the puck behind Viktor Fasth at 9:44. As it was in his NHL debut, Fasth recovered from the initial goal and stopped 26 shots for the victory.
The hard work of the Ducks was finally rewarded in the second period when Palmieri got his first of the night to tie up the game at 6:49.
Niklas Backstrom kept the Wild in the game, pretty much single-handedly, including an onslaught in the beginning of the third period. Emerson Etem had several good chances and put pressure on the Wild and got the crowd going with some exciting play in Minnesota's end.
Palmieri followed that up with his second goal, the eventual game winner, at 4:21.
Part of Anaheim's success could be attributed to their discipline. They took only one penalty the entire evening and never gave Minnesota a chance to get going on the power play.
Late in the third, Ryan was tripped up and the Ducks were awarded a penalty, although Ryan did seem to embellish his fall just a little bit. Instead of being 4 on 4, Ryan added insult to injury and got the insurance marker at 18:26 with the power play goal. It was a gorgeous and perfectly placed pass from Selanne and Backstrom had no chance at all.
Selanne now has 1414 points, tied for 17th all time with Doug GIlmour. Remember when he got 1000 points? That was January 30, 2006, against the Kings. Guess who is coming to the Honda Center this evening? Chances are good Selanne will get point #1415 against Los Angeles as the Ducks play the second of back to back games.
Whether scoring or facilitating, the Ducks will take it because they are making points where it counts – in the standings.
In other notes: Sami Vatanen made his defensive debut. He played 13:52 and had a shot on goal and a +1 rating. He was paired with Luca Sbisa. Toni Lydman was given the night off for "wear and tear." Lydman should be in the line up this evening against the Kings and Jonas Hiller is expected to take the net.