Yes, it is only the pre-season and the points don't matter. And yet they do. With only one more game left to work out the kinks before the real deal begins next Friday in Detroit, the Ducks have a ways to go.
The Ducks are now 2-4-0 in the pre-season with their latest loss. Although the game was closer than last Saturday's match up in Vancouver, the Canucks prevailed once again, this time 4-2.
Things were going pretty well for the Ducks, who were outshooting the Canucks 8-0 early in the game. A power play opportunity for Anaheim and things looked good until Mason Raymond put Vancouver on the board with a short handed goal and their first shot on goal of the game at 14:01. Bobby Ryan, who has been moved back to wing after a brief stint as a center (a failed experiment that coach Randy Carlyle states has been put on the shelf for now, but is not completely dead and buried), tried to do too much and the Canucks took advantage.
It certainly sucked some of the wind out of the Ducks' sails, but they recovered well enough to tie the game up in the second period. Ryan Kesler was in the box for a 5 minute major boarding penalty, well deserved for creaming Corey Perry into the wall. The Ducks were 4 on 4 because Matt Beleskey (and the rest of the team) took exception to Kesler's actions. Perry settled things personally by fighting with Kesler later on in the second period.
A slashing penalty by Daniel Sedin gave the Ducks a 4 on 3 opportunity that would soon become a 5 on 3 when Beleskey would get out of the box. No need to wait, though. Saku Koivu got the puck up and over Corey Schneider at 1:06 to tie things up.
After Alex Edler quickly scored on the ower play at 7:14, the Ducks lost a little momentum. They started to pick back up later, primarily thanks to a determined effort by Beleskey, who had several good chances, some he created on his own. Beleskey, who had five shots on goal, finally was rewarded at 3:55 of the third period to tie the game once again.
It appeared that the game might be headed to overtime, but the Canucks took advantage of another power play opportunity, giving Henrik Sedin the game winner at 14:55. Pulling Jonas Hiller for the extra attacker was not enough and Kesler put the puck into the empty net with just :14.1 seconds left to play, thus ending any hopes the Ducks had of going to overtime.
In the end, it was not a bad effort, but it was not their best. Specialty teams clearly need improvement.
"There's just got to be some improvement," Hiller commented after the game. "We're not where we want to be. There are some good aspects but overall it's just not good enough yet."
I can't say it any better than that.
Next up is a final pre-season game (tune-up?) on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks certainly want to improve over their performance on Tuesday night, an 8-3 stinker that led Carlyle to comment that it appeared the Ducks had never once practiced defensive zone coverage. A win would be good.
In other notes: Defenseman Toni Lydman skated with the team for the first time at the morning skate. Lydman still has no medical explanation for the cause of his double vision. Beginning to skate is a sign of positive progress, but there is no timetable for him to be cleared and ready to play in any games.