By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks will look to even the series tonight as they take on the LA Kings in Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round at Honda Center. In the series opener two nights ago that was as entertaining and nerve-wracking as expected, another tight-checking, and bruising contest figures to be in store tonight between two teams that know each other well. With Games 3 and 4 (Thursday and Saturday) at Staples Center, and the Ducks trailing 1-0 in the series, the importance of tonight’s game isn’t lost on anybody.
“We know how good a team they are at home,” said Mathieu Perreault. “We don’t want to go into their building down two games. This is a must-win for us, and we’ve prepared for it. We’ll be ready.”
Teemu Selanne says keeping an even keel is crucial during these situations. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you just have to learn something and move on,” he said. “Tonight is another opportunity. We know every game is huge. We played a really good game two nights ago. We don’t have to fix much at all, if you don’t count the power play. Everything else was there.”
“It’s easy to get depressed, lower your head and get angry,” said Nick Bonino. “We were happy with the game, and so was our coach. We watched some video, saw some scoring chances and we came out with the impression that we can beat these guys.”
Game 1 could’ve easily gone the Ducks’ way, if not for a Marian Gaborik goal with 7.0 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game. After the Ducks missed a handful of glorious chances in overtime, the Kings took advantage with a Gaborik redirection on a shot-pass that stunned the Ducks and their fans. But there were positives to take out of the loss.
“Our forechecking was good for the most part, as was our physicality,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “Those are the good things, but we'd like to do some things an awful lot better. The lack of odd-man rushes was good. We're an aggressive team. We limited their chances to score. We have to build on them because they're going to be a lot better. They'll play like it's Game 7.”
TOP LINE CHEMISTRY
Matt Beleskey has been a fixture on the top line when he’s been in the lineup. Averaging over a point-per-game in the postseason (2-2=4 in three games), Beleskey has already surpassed last year’s point total (2-1=3 in seven games). Though many have seen time on the top line’s left wing, Boudreau says Beleskey has been the one that’s been the most consistent.
“Maturity, comfortability, knowing he's not going to be moved,” Boudreau said, on Beleskey finding chemistry with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. “He was really good for us in the playoffs last year. He's a big-game guy. The other two guys like playing with him. The chemistry was born with these guys.”
His physicality also keeps opposing players honest. Beleskey (and defenseman Mark Fistric) led all players with eight hits during Game 1. In that game, the Ducks delivered 54 hits compared to LA’s 41.
DOWN ON THE FARM
In addition to the Ducks-Kings series, the AHL affiliates for both teams were matched up in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Norfolk (Anaheim) earned a 3-1 series victory over Manchester (Los Angeles) and will next play St. John's (Winnipeg) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals beginning Tuesday, May 6. The best-of-seven series will follow a 2-3-2 format with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday, May 7 in St. John's. Sami Vatanen led all Norfolk skaters in points (0-3=3) and assists during the first-round series win, while Maxime Sauve led in goals (2-0=2). John Gibson has started all four games for the Admirals, going 3-1 with a 1.42 GAA and .947 SV%.