By Jameson Bradley
The Anaheim Ducks came into Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators having won three in a row, and blanked the Washington Capitals in their last outing on Tuesday. The Ducks faced a Central Division leading Nashville Predators team who had a small streak going themselves. Going into Thursday’s game, the Predators had won the last nine games straight. So how was the match-up?
After an especially lengthy opening ceremony celebrating the Predators GM, the game finally got underway. Unfortunately, it seemed like the Ducks were thrown off by the pre-game celebration because they came out of the gates extremely slow. It didn’t take long for the Predators to capitalize on the Ducks slow speed. About six minutes into the game, after a harmless break-out play Kyle Turris crossed with Craig Smith in the offensive zone and Smith went bar down to make the game 1-0. Nashville continued to apply the pressure, and the Ducks slowly started to play the game, getting a couple of chances but no rewards. With about five minutes left in the period, the Ducks got caught flat-footed in the offensive zone and the Predators suddenly had a two-on-one developing. After what looked like a botched play because they threw the puck back toward the blue line, Filip Forsberg launched the puck on net only to have it tipped by Ryan Johansen. 2-0 Predators. Near the end of the period, they got a power play opportunity, but couldn’t capitalize. The period finished with shots in favor of Nashville 11-7.
The Ducks came out stronger in this period and seemed to have things go their way with a couple great chance but just couldn’t convert. The period was very much a back and forth one until with about two minutes left the Ducks would get the opportunity to cut the score in half on a power play. Their power play looked especially sluggish but got worse when Austin Watson scored a short-handed tally on them. The Predators would finish the period with a 3-0 lead and the shots would be in their favor 21-15, but not before Ryan Kesler and Ryan Johansen would drop the gloves.
It seemed like the Ducks finally decided to show up and play in the third. They had great control of the play and came up with some insanely creative ways to get the puck around Pekka Rinne, who seemed to have a shut-out in mind. About six minutes in the Ducks would push into the offensive zone with Corey Perry streaking through the middle-to-the-side like he usually does, but with a screen set up in front he faked the shot and passed it to a wide-open Rickard Rakell. All he had to do was tap it in since everyone on the Predators seemed so preoccupied with Perry having the puck. With the game being 3-1 at that point you got the feeling the Ducks had some life in them. Nashville pushed back some, but the Ducks seemed to be in control of the majority of the play. They had a power play opportunity to convert but failed to muster anything up. With about three minutes left in the game, Ryan Getzlaf threw the puck right in front of the Predators goal and Rikard Rakell scored his second of the game making the score 3-2. With their three-goal lead cut down to one, it started to become obvious the Predators were failing out of place in this one. The Ducks pushed for another two minutes, and right about the time they were going to pull Gibson things fell apart. Derek Grant lost a face-off in the offensive zone and with a couple chippy plays the Predators not only got the puck out of the zone, but they get a two-on-one chance. They had the opportunity to put the game away and you better believe they took it. Viktor Arvidsson potted his 25th of the season, and the Predators went on to win 4-2.
Well…I am going to be brutally honest. This game was a travesty. It was such a huge opportunity for the Ducks to solidify that playoff berth they are fighting for and to make a statement to the NHL going against a team that had nine straight wins. Yes, the task was huge, but they did the same in Boston and won so it wasn’t impossible. They played a great last 20 minutes. I was very impressed with how creative they got with the puck to make a final push, but it was too late. A team cannot play like this if they want to make the playoffs. A team cannot play like this if they want to make it far in the playoffs, let alone past the first round. They looked great the last couple games and unfortunately couldn’t pull this one off. You can blame the loss on particular players, coaching staff, or just the fact that we don’t seem to match up well with the Predators, but at the end of the night, a loss is a loss. The Ducks aren’t out of the woods yet, and they seriously have to figure out how to improve their play.
For more analysis check out our post game show! Forever Mighty
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March 8th, 2018