As the checking line goes, so goes the Ducks?
|"It feels good," said Rob Niedermayer of his 10 goals already on the season. "With our line, we just have to keep trying to shoot the puck as much as we can and keep going to the net." |
According to Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, forwards Rob Niedermayer, Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen are “in a lot of ways, the identity of the hockey club.” There has been plenty of evidence to support his point, none more apparent than the trio’s leading role in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs that culminated in a championship for the Ducks. Recently, the three have once again proven their impact on the team’s fortunes endures.
In the last three games (all played at Honda Center), the checking line has enjoyed some of their finer performances yet of the 2008-09 campaign. And it’s no surprise the Ducks have gone 2-0-1 in those contests and now sit tied with Vancouver
with the fifth-most points (47) in the Western Conference With the second half of the season starting tomorrow night in Los Angeles
, it seems like the trio picked the perfect time to consistently show its face.
“The best game they played was the game against Philadelphia
,” said Carlyle of his unit that shut down the vaunted line of Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul, limiting them to a combined minus-five rating on Jan. 2. “They followed it up with a real strong performance against Phoenix
. They draw tough assignments. They do the yeoman’s work in the corners, the grind, the penalty killing and blocking of the shots. All those things are not easy things to do. They are hard on players’ bodies.”
Along with their tireless work on the defensive end, Niedermayer and Pahlsson are also seeing a spike in their production while playing in the offensive zone. During last night’s defeat of the rival Kings, Pahlsson’s tip-in on the power play 9:45 into the final stanza proved to be the game-winner and Niedermayer’s empty-netter with seven seconds remaining sealed shut a 3-1 victory.
“We’re just being a little bit smarter out there,” Niedermayer said.
“I think early on we weren’t really putting pucks in good spots where we could go and get them. I think we were looking to get rid of it too much and too early. Now, we’re starting to hold onto it a little bit better.”
The late goal was Niedermayer’s 10th on the year, which has already bypassed the totals he had (five goals in 2006-07 and eight in 2007-08) in each of the two previous seasons. At his current rate, the 34-year-old is on track for 20 goals, which would be his best output since 1995-96 when he tallied a career-high 26 with Florida
|"Every time Sammy is out on the power play, it seems like we score," said Travis Moen of Pahlsson. "He's doing something right out there." |
“It feels good,” said Niedermayer, who has scored seven of those 10 since being a healthy scratch in the Kings’ first visit to Anaheim
on Nov. 16. “I think it’s just sometimes pucks go in, sometimes they don’t. With our line, we just have to keep trying to shoot the puck as much as we can and keep going to the net.”
Pahlsson’s goal actually came without Niedermayer or Moen on the ice, as the soft-spoken Swede continued to cash in on his rare opportunity on the power play. With Teemu Selanne
injured and Corey Perry
serving a four-game suspension, Pahlsson has been beside Ryan Getzlaf
and Bobby Ryan
on the first power play unit the last two games. That teaming has produced four goals during that span.
“Every time Sammy is out on the power play, it seems like we score,” Moen said. “He’s doing something right out there.”
Said Niedermayer, “I think it’s great. Sammy’s been consistent for us for a lot of years. It’s nice to see him get a good chance here. I think he’s got a lot more offensive ability than people think.”
The inclusion of Pahlsson on the power play came as somewhat of a “fluke,” according to Carlyle. With Ryan Getzlaf
serving a five-minute major during the third period at Vancouver
on Dec. 22, the Ducks inserted Pahlsson for nearly four minutes of power play time. The result was two goals, including Pahlsson’s third of the year, which nearly gave Anaheim
a comeback victory.
“Sammy went to the front of the net and took the offensive zone faceoffs on the two goals that we scored on the power play,” Carlyle said. “So, it wasn’t really any rocket science to go back to it.”
Already a staple of the penalty kill, Pahlsson just might get a permanent spot on the other special teams unit if the results carry on. “If he continues to win faceoffs and goes to the front of the net and we execute to the level,” Carlyle said, “it’s going to be hard to move him out of that position.”