26 October 2013

Game n°10 file notes: Ducks wear out their fingernails clinging on to a 2-1 win over Sens

Well, that wasn't fun.

For all of Paul MacLean’s “Don’t mess with a winning line-up” talk, we saw a bizarre trio at the beginning of what would be an arduously frustrating game: Conacher-Smith-Neil became the team’s Do You Even Lift (Your Teammate)? line while Colin Greening jockeyed about rather futilely on the questionable top line with Spezza and Michalek. That didn't really work out; Greening ended up with just 15.4% of his starts in the OZ, and Spezza's Corsi Rel %, while improved, is still only 2.6%. But even though all three players of the Ryan-Turris-MacArthur line were in the top 5 of number of shots registered, last night’s game saw the end of that Turris line’s possession domination.

It probably didn’t help that the return of the Sens’ penalty parade prevented full lines of three forwards from rolling throughout the second. While Ottawa had relatively good shot numbers in the first at even strength play (despite two fluky goals which wouldn’t have happened on a different night), one can’t always have Condra on the PK to skate the puck out and shoot (and miss) the net.

Even before that, in fact, a peek at the Corsi events chart over at Extra Skater suggests that Anaheim had relatively good control over the game to start the second period. Anderson was splayed out in all sorts of manners in his crease as he kept the Sens alive. But directly after Zibanejad’s power play goal (tell me again why anyone was worrying about our PP units?), Neil allowed Maroon to goad him into a roughing penalty. The fat lady had sung; the parade baton-twirler was in sight; here came the Sens penalty parade.

It was truly extremely frustrating. The fourth line of Grant-Zibanejad-Condra had been excellent previously; the irony of having your fourth line, whose role is mostly reserved for the PK, score a goal only to be followed by three penalties in a row made the game laborious to watch. Of course, Grant and Condra were a major part of the reason why Anaheim’s power play went 0-5, dropping their conversion rate down from 8.3% to 7.3%. (In fact, at one point in the first, the French broadcaster described Condra’s PK work as “tranquille[ment]”—Condra was tranquilly bringing the puck up the boards and out of their own zone. That's the Condra we all know and love.)

Interesting to note—Jared Cowen spent the most time shorthanded along with Chris Phillips, and the Ducks did go scoreless on the PP. Has Cowen started to evolve into the bruising top 4 defenseman everyone’s been looking for? He and Phillips were the only players whose ice time was over 50% shorthanded.

As soon as the penalties ended, the Senators decided—wisely, but too late—to dominate puck possession, resulting in a third period that saw the Ducks only get a shot 7 minutes in. Even as Anaheim retreated into their shell, however, their rookie goalie Frederik Andersen bailed them out left and right. Good offensive zone pressure resulted in nothing but the surety of knowing that at least nobody would be calling Michalek “invisible” for this game.

Of course, a visible Milan Michalek never did ensure us a win.


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